"While we supported the move at the time, we – and all Portlanders – should recognize what has also been lost. The Gun Violence Reduction Team responded to every shooting, identifying incidents that were connected and helping disrupt potential retaliatory action," wrote The Oregonian's editorial board in an April 4 article. (Related: Portland police LEAVING in droves, exit interviews detail stories of being overworked, unappreciated by the community and ignored by city officials.)
"Officers had established relationships with many of those considered high-risk for being involved in gun violence, connecting people with resources in the community as well as communicating with them about ongoing disputes to keep violence down," continued the article. "And as part of their work, they took dozens of guns off the street."
The editorial board noted that – as many members of Portland's community have pointed out to them – there is a way that the PPB can still be funded while at the same time investing in the community organizations and charities that helped address the underlying factors that contributed to gun violence.
The Oregonian then criticized the City Council of Portland for ignoring the threat the city was facing because the PPB had fewer police officers. It also criticized the council for opposing a proposal to provide the PPB with an additional $2 million to revive the GVRT, while at the same time proposing to hand over $3.5 million to "unspecified community groups who work with communities affected by gun violence in some manner."
This, the board noted, showed that the City Council did not fully grasp the seriousness or the scope of the crisis the city was facing.
After being faced with the surge in homicides and gun violence incidents, many Portlanders have begun changing their minds regarding whether the police should be defunded.
This is the case for Elmer Yarborough and many of his friends. Yarborough's two nephews were shot in broad daylight in the summer of 2020. One of his nephews died.
This occurred right around the same time when liberal rioters were taking over Portland's streets nightly to demand that the police be defunded. In response to the violence led by Antifa and Black Lives Matter, the PPB's GVRT was dissolved.
Yarborough and other families in Portland who have become victims of gun violence have wondered if shutting down the GVRT is to blame for the spike in shootings.
"Without a doubt, I think it is a possibility that my nephew could still be alive if the Gun Violence Reduction Team was not dissolved," said Yarborough. "I cannot say for sure if he would, but what I will tell you is had it not been my nephew that was saved, [the GVRT] probably could have saved the life of someone else."
Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler, a Democrat who signed off on the unit's disbanding in June 2020, has refused to accept the possibility that the GVRT would have made a difference.
"I believe if the Gun Violence Reduction Team were around today, we would still see a substantial, if not identical increase, in shootings in Portland," said the mayor back in January. "This is clearly part of a larger national trend."
Other officials and supposed experts on crime have attributed the spike in shootings in Portland to the hardships people have faced due to the Wuhan coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, such as unemployment, economic anxiety and stress on mental health.
The Portland police warned Wheeler and the City Council of the possible repercussions of ending the unit, but these warnings were in vain.
Yarborough admitted to being a member of a gang in the 1990s, and that he was previously arrested by the GVRT during his time in the streets. Despite that, he has described the unit as "the CIA" of the PPB and said they were effective at stopping potential shooting incidents before they happened because of the relationships they developed with the community.
"They build relationships with gang members and knew who the perpetrators were," said Yarborough. "They … were able to band together to stop it, or at least refer people impacted to programs to help change their lives."
Learn more about the problems being faced by cities like Portland that have opted to defund their police departments by reading the latest articles at PoliceViolence.news.