A Majority of Portland Residents Reject ‘Defund the Police,’ Poll Finds

Police officers disperse a crowd of protesters in Portland, Ore., September 5, 2020. (Caitlin Ochs/Reuters)

A majority of Portland, Ore. residents and those in the surrounding metropolitan area have rejected the ‘defund the police’ movement and calls for decreased police presence in the city.

Three-fourths of Portlanders object to a reduction in policing in the city and most support an increase in police officers, according to a recent survey conducted by The Oregonian/OregonLive.

Less than 25 percent of poll participants in Portland, and even less among suburbanites, believe in decreasing the number of cops.

People age 34 and younger were more likely than older people to support a decreased police presence, but most still favored keeping the existing policing levels, the poll conducted by DHM Research indicated.

Survey participant Brandon Lane, age 61, said the ongoing challenges facing the city, such as an uptick in shootings, homelessness, and addiction, should be met with a more robust police force.

“I’m not sure that it needs to be drastically higher,” Lane told The Oregonian/OregonLive. “But if we defund or reduce the headcount any further, we’re likely to be inviting bigger problems.”

He also stated that cops should not be responsible for responding to certain  situations, such as people in crisis or mental health calls. Lane voiced his support for more financing for social services to address the root cause of these issues.

“That’s the compassionate thing to try and do,” he said. “That would also free the police to do the things they’re supposed to do.”

In line with Lane’s recommendation, Portland plans to spend millions to launch an experimental program that would send non-police first responders to individuals in distress experiencing homelessness or a mental health crisis.

Daryl Turner, the executive director of the Portland Police Association, the union that represents the city’s rank-and-file officers, expressed his concerns with the defund the police trend that took the city and country by storm last year. The Portland City Council cut the police budget by $15 million last year following the wave of racial justice protests that erupted after George Floyd’s fatal encounter with a Minneapolis police officer in 2020.

“This message is clearly not being heard by Portland’s elected leaders, who only listen to those who talk the loudest,” Turner remarked in reference to the budget trimming.

“Residents want to be safe and protected and they don’t have that feeling right now,”  he said.

The survey’s results come as Democratic politicians and corporate media coverage have depicted Portland as an anti-police, progressive metropolis that wants to slash state budgeting for police units or eliminate the institution entirely. While activists, including Black Lives Matter members, still advocate for less policing, The Oregonian poll suggests that Portland citizens prioritize law and order and safety in their communities more than previous reporting has depicted.

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