BREAKING: Portland is latest city to defund police, reallocate money to alternative programs

Portland, Ore., has approved $4.8 million for a street response program touted by local advocates.

TheHill reports the Portland City Council passed a budget last week cutting at least $15 million from the police bureau, according to local news outlets, following weeks of protesters’ cries to “defund the police.” The budget for the upcoming fiscal year also includes $4.8 million in funding for Portland Street Response, a program proposed as an alternative to policing.

The pilot program was born out of research and advocacy by Street Roots, a local newspaper that works with the houseless community, which led to a pilot proposal from Commissioner Jo Ann Hardesty’s office in 2019.

The proposal cited the City of Eugene’s Crisis Assistance Helping Out On The Street (CAHOOTS) program, a crisis intervention team dispatched through the Eugene police-fire-ambulance communications center.

“The City is working to change the way it responds to some of its 911 calls,” said the city of Portland in a report on its response to homelessness. It also cited a report from The Oregonian, which found that more than half of all 911 calls in 2017 were made about houseless individuals.

“These calls clog up the emergency response system, have little effect on the core issue of houselessness, and further criminalize people for simply existing,” the city said.

Instead of sending armed police officers to deal with some of these calls, the city will now send a team of paramedics and mental health professionals trained in de-escalation to respond to low-risk calls. In the Eugene-Springfield Metro area, where CAHOOTS operates, the team provides immediate stabilization in cases of urgent medical need or psychological crisis, ranging from suicide prevention to conflict resolution and mediation to substance abuse.

In situations where the report includes a crime in progress, violence or a life-threatening emergency, the city may still send police or emergency medical services instead of or in addition to CAHOOTS staff.

“The City is working to change the way it responds to some of its 911 calls,” said the city of Portland in a report on its response to homelessness. It also cited a report from The Oregonian, which found that more than half of all 911 calls in 2017 were made about houseless individuals.

“These calls clog up the emergency response system, have little effect on the core issue of houselessness, and further criminalize people for simply existing,” the city said.

Instead of sending armed police officers to deal with some of these calls, the city will now send a team of paramedics and mental health professionals trained in de-escalation to respond to low-risk calls. In the Eugene-Springfield Metro area, where CAHOOTS operates, the team provides immediate stabilization in cases of urgent medical need or psychological crisis, ranging from suicide prevention to conflict resolution and mediation to substance abuse.

In situations where the report includes a crime in progress, violence or a life-threatening emergency, the city may still send police or emergency medical services instead of or in addition to CAHOOTS staff.

Read more here.