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Portland police struggles to recruit officers to combat rising murder rate

Recruitment for Portland police's revived Gun Violence Reduction team is at a dismal level as crime continues to surge in the riot-torn city.

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Recruitment for Portland police's revived Gun Violence Reduction team is at a dismal level as violent crime continues to surge in the riot-torn city.

The revelation comes on the heels of the June 16 resignation of the Portland Police Bureau's entire Rapid Response Team, known commonly as the "riot squad" responsible for policing riot-related violence, after an officer was indicted.

According to the Wall Street Journal, retirements and resignations are also rising at local police departments across the country. There was an 18 percent increase in resignations and a 45 percent increase in retirements from April 2020 through March 2021 compared with the same period one year ago, according to a June survey by DC-based think tank Police Executive Research Forum.

And, in the Rose City itself, since 14 job openings were announced in May, only four police personnel have applied to work with Portland's new version of the Gun Violence Reduction Team. The unit was disbanded in 2020 amid an effort to defund the police and has recently been reinstated, although there have been several changes which appear to be unappetizing for prospective job applicants.

"Portland officers say such positions, once considered prestigious, are now less desirable, given the increased scrutiny that accompanies them," the Wall Street Journal reported. "The new unit has its own citizen-advisory board, instituted after the old unit was criticized by city leaders for racial profiling. A job description says qualifications include the ability to fight systemic racism."

Daryl Turner, the person in charge of the union representing Portland police officers, stated: "They're demonizing and vilifying you, and then they want to put you in a unit where you're under an even bigger microscope."

Following calls to defund the police, the Portland City Council last summer voted to slash $15 million from the city's police department, including the 38-person gun violence reduction team, which was criticized for alleged racial profiling.

In 2019, 52 percent of the team's stops were of black people, who make up 5.8 percent of the city's population. After the team was disbanded, homicides rose. Portland police officials then proposed creating a new team in spring 2021.

There have been 53 homicides so far in 2021 and Portland is on pace to surpass its all-time high of 70 homicides in 1987, according to Portland police officials. The trend is unraveling Portland's decades-long history of having one of the lowest homicide rates among major American cities, the Wall Street Journal reported.

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