By Jamie Goldberg and Shane Dixon Kavanaugh
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PORTLAND, Ore. — Gov. Tina Kotek is getting behind top public safety priorities in Portland.
Kotek said Wednesday that she has directed the Oregon State Police to partner with the Portland Police Bureau to crack down on illegal street racing and drunk driving within the city and would ask the Legislature for nearly $7 million to clear the law enforcement training backlog that has prevented new police officers from being deployed in Portland and other parts of the state.
“The mayor and the governor have also agreed to ask the Legislature for additional dollars to clear the law enforcement training backlog over the next two years, which could require as much as $6.8 million,” Elisabeth Shepard, a spokesperson for Kotek, wrote in an email. “We are committed to improving safety in Portland.”
Kotek and Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler had been in discussions in recent months about how the Oregon State Police could help with traffic enforcement in Portland and how to address the police training backlog.
In a Feb. 27 letter to Wheeler, Kotek said that the state police didn’t have the resources to “engage regularly in enhanced patrols within the city of Portland,” but said she believed they could help the city address concerns around speed racing, street takeovers and drunk driving enforcement, specifically.
In the same letter, she also shot down a proposal from Wheeler for a temporary basic officer training course in the metro area but expressed support for providing additional resources to the Department of Public Safety Standards & Training to enable the department to increase its training offerings.
The Oregonian/OregonLive reported in January that Portland and other police agencies across the state had started gradually filling vacancies but were hamstrung by an up to five-month wait for spots in one of the state’s police basic training academy classes. At the same time, vacancies have made it harder for police to crack down on problems like street racing.
Wheeler learned about the governor’s planned request to the Legislature during his regular meeting with Kotek on Wednesday.
Wheeler said the partnership between the Oregon State Police and the Portland Police Bureau will “save lives” and praised Kotek for her support for increased funding to expand the police training staffing and course offerings.
The Portland Police Bureau “has done a tremendous job of recruiting and hiring over 100 sworn staff with diverse lived experience who are committed to serving our community,” Wheeler said in a statement. “With these concrete steps, they can get to work more quickly and make Portland safer for everyone.”
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