Increased foot and bike patrols to address livability issues on Portland streets
Beginning Monday, some Portland Police officers will be leaving their patrol cars behind and hitting the streets on foot or by bike to build positive relationships between police officers and the communities they serve.
The community policing pilot program, announced by Mayor Ted Wheeler Friday, is designed to address serious livability issues plaguing Portland: homelessness, community relations and racial disparity.
“I am committed to creating a 21st century police force and to improving livability in Portland,” said Mayor Wheeler. “This program moves us forward in achieving both.”
Portland Police officers Mark Duarte and Joe Bernard will help lead the program. Both are members of the Enhanced Crisis Intervention Team and received specialized behavioral health training.
"It's really nice not to have to worry about the 9-1-1 calls," Bernard told a KATU crew during a ride-along. "You have that opportunity to get out of the car and chat with people. You get that face-to-face interaction."
Duarte said officers are able to break barriers that existed when they responded in a police car.
"Whether it's positive or negative, you get to know the person," Duarte said. "You can't really do that driving around in a car."
Officers say it's a simple interaction, like handing someone a water bottle on a hot day, that go a long way.
"We're giving them services, we're giving them access to food and water and different places to go," Bernard said. "It's nice to be able to feel like you're doing something in your own community where you've lived all of your life."
The pilot builds on President Obama’s lauded Task Force on 21st Century Policing, which recommends “assigning officers to geographic areas on a consistent basis so that through the continuity of assignment they have the opportunity to know the members of the community.”
Additionally, this approach could align efforts with the innovative Law Enforcement Assisted Diversion (LEAD) program. LEAD allows police officers to redirect low-level offenders involved in drug activity to intensive case management tailored to the individual's needs instead of jail and prosecution.
“This is a great opportunity for officers to directly engage with people in the community and get to know the neighborhoods and work together,” said Chief Mike Marshman.
Patrol officer walking and biking beats will continue through the summer. The strategy will undergo continuous evaluation to determine next steps.