Opinion: Reinvest in law enforcement for better policing results

Mike Reese

Reese has served as sheriff of Multnomah County since 2016. His term ends in December.

As a lifelong Portlander and seasoned public safety professional, I share the deep concerns of many in the community about the safety of our city. Gun violence continues at an all-time high, traffic fatalities and overdose deaths are near record highs, and livability issues are present in nearly every neighborhood.

Public safety is essential for healthy and prosperous communities. Having a safe community is like having a well-built home, a place where we feel safe and secure.

Law enforcement is a fundamental part of our focus on public safety. These frontline professionals respond to calls for help in our community, prevent and investigate crimes, and restore order in the midst of chaos; they are essential to maintaining safe neighborhoods and holding offenders accountable when they victimize innocent people.

In recent years, we have partially funded law enforcement and limited the ability of officers to intervene before a situation becomes dire. Unfortunately, this approach has effectively undermined the safety and livability of our neighborhoods in Portland.

By requiring police to wait for crime to occur before intervening, fewer crimes are prevented, resulting in more victimization as the overall number of criminal incidents increases.

When law enforcement is instead engaged in community-supported preventative policing, we reduce the likelihood of crime. Traffic accidents and associated fatalities are a good example. Law enforcement measures such as drunk driving patrols reduce the number of dangerous drivers on our roads, making us all safer.

Reducing gun violence also has a proactive policing element. When law enforcement patrols are concentrated in areas where shootings occur, individuals are less likely to illegally carry a firearm in specific hotspots. Those who do can be arrested for lesser criminal acts such as illegal possession of a weapon.

Withdrawing from preventive policing may actually lead to more severe results. Consider that as serious crimes increase, the response of the criminal justice system naturally becomes more traditional. Offenders convicted of violent crimes are legitimately prosecuted and can face mandatory prison sentences. The seriousness of their charges means they are not eligible for diversion, reduced sentences, drug treatment or other restorative justice options. A person caught by the police in possession of an illegal firearm can benefit from community-supported diversion. But if we don’t intervene and a shooting results in injury or loss of life, that same person will likely go to jail.

We must continue to identify the root causes that drive someone to become involved in justice and support community programs separate from the criminal justice system. More importantly, we must recognize that it is not a matter of choosing between one or the other. Community safety requires both: expanding opportunities for early intervention or diversion before people go through a crisis and elevating our law enforcement professionals.

Finally, we all want and deserve ethical policing by MPs and police. Bias-based policing is wrong, destroys trust and undermines legitimate efforts to keep our communities safe. Poor police tactics and training also lead to preventable tragedies.

I believe the changes we’ve made to policing in Oregon put us on the right track. Examples include training on mental health issues and substance use disorders, policies requiring a duty to intervene in cases of misconduct, and a database to track law enforcement professionals. who are sanctioned for misconduct.

Now is the time to invest in the professional development, leadership and training of law enforcement that will result in better policing results.

We must support and encourage MPs and officers who do the hard work of peacekeeping. The job of protecting and serving as a law enforcement professional has never been easy, and today’s pressures on those who are ready to serve make recruiting the next generation into security difficult. public. If we value the safety of our community, we must also value and support MPs and officers who willfully put their personal safety at risk in service to our community.

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About Michael C. Lovelace

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