Wheeler folds! Portland police won’t receive more funding, 24 unarmed park rangers hired instead

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In Portland, Oregon, a city where critics say “common sense goes to die,” the mayor has chosen to push back on a surge in crime by keeping local police defunded and, instead, investing money in hiring dozens of unarmed park rangers …

This week Mayor Ted Wheeler “compromised with the Portland City Council and backed off from his request that the Portland Police Bureau be appropriated $2 million in emergency funding,” as reported by the New York Post.

The PPB has been desperate for funding ever since city leaders reportedly slashed $16 million from its annual budget last summer.

Nevertheless, the mayor and the Portland City Council agreed this week to instead “spend $6 million on grants to community groups already receiving funding and hire 24 park rangers.”

“What we’re doing today is starting a pathway towards making sure that we’re investing dollars where they make the most good. We’re also at the front end of transforming our police department,” city commissioner Jo Ann Hardesty reportedly said in a statement.

Hardesty is a far-left activist who last year pushed for the city to defund the police on the grounds that they’re not needed — though she herself had no qualms about exploiting these “unneeded” police resources to complain about a cancelled Lyft ride.

According to local station KOIN, the unarmed park rangers will be deployed “to provide a positive, unarmed community safety presence in the parks and surrounding neighborhoods.”

“Their job is to help solve problems and help protect natural resources,” the station reported, citing a statement from Portland Parks & Recreation.

It’s not clear how unarmed men and women trained primarily in how to “protect natural resources” will be able to “solve problems” involving dangerous, potentially armed suspects.

The Portland City Council has for its part claimed that it doesn’t “expect the park rangers to respond to shootings or to be the police of the parks,” according to KOIN.

Yet they are being hired “as part of the city’s gun violence reduction plan,” as noted by the station.

Moreover, current city park rangers are so concerned about the potential of getting hurt on the job that their union, Laborers’ Local 483, has begun demanding body armor.

“In the last year, there has been an increased sense of hostility toward city employees. We are worried by the number of assaults, attempted assaults, threats and harassment toward parks staff, including angers,” union organizer Ted Bryan wrote to the Portland City Council, according to Willamette Week.

He reportedly added that the rangers will need “Level II-A body armor to protect them from projectiles and stab threats.”

That’s the type of gear typically reserved for police officers …

If the request for body armor is approved, the rangers would be indistinguishable from regular police officers except in two ways: They’d possess less training and experience, and they’d be “armed” with just pepper spray.

Jim Ferraris, president of the Oregon Association Chiefs of Police, seems to suspect that the veritable impotence of these park rangers make the council’s plans pointless.

“Park rangers aren’t really going to have an impact. That’s not what they’re trained for, that’s not what they’re hired for, that’s not what they signed up for. They don’t even have ballistic vests for protection,” he told the Post.

Dave Barrios, a 15-year Portland park ranger who previously spent 30 years working as a cop, feels the same.

“We are not the police of the parks, period, and we’re not going to be, period. It’s not something that the rangers themselves want,” he said to The Oregonian.

Also in agreement is T.J. Browning, who’s reportedly worked for three years on “police accountability measures,” according to The Oregonian.

He reportedly wrote to the Portland City Council that in the past year, whenever he’s tried to call in local park rangers to deal with issues at a nearby park, he’s been rebuffed.

“We were repeatedly told it was too dangerous for the park rangers and that it was a police matter,” he reportedly wrote.

Given this experience, he doesn’t understand the Portland City Council’s interest in essentially replacing armed police officers with unarmed, less trained park rangers who apparently can’t even handle “issues” at a park.

“The park rangers know better than you what they are capable of doing. While the park rangers have an important role in our city, they are no substitute for a professional, trained police force,” his letter continued.

Of course, the city clearly disagrees.

“The Park Ranger program is a unique model that relies on rangers having a specific set of skills and training that includes de-escalation, crisis management, anti-bias, cultural competency to gain voluntary compliance,” Vicente Harrison of Portland Parks & Recreation reportedly said in rebuttal.

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Vivek Saxena

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