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Friday, October 15, 2010

That New Guns Task Force? It'll Cost the City.

Posted by Denis C. Theriault on Fri, Oct 15, 2010 at 2:30 PM

Waiting to explain the new Illegal Gun and Gang Task Force.
Portland police officials finally detailed how Mayor Sam Adams' new/old gun crime task force will work, convening a press conference with Adams, Police Chief Mike Reese, U.S. Attorney Dwight Holton and District Attorney Mike Schrunk.

And it started with a giant emotional punch, delivered by Salina Harris, mother of Andre Payton, one of Portland's most recent victims of gang violence. "We need the help of police to stop this violence," she said. "I am now a member of a club I never wanted to be a part of."

The big headline? Despite earlier statements that the task force would be assembled through "existing resources," meaning no new officers or equipment would be deployed, Adams announced today that he expects to have to go to his fellow commissioners and ask for more funding for the police bureau. He said he might know the size of the request in a month.

The unit, now called the Illegal Gun and Gang Task Force, is a resurrected incarnation of a unit dismantled three years ago because budget cuts.

"I don't know that for a fact," he told me afterward. But given the "nature of the work" done by the task force, he's assuming that he'll need some help paying overtime costs. That request will come at a sensitive time for the city and the bureau. Officials say the bureau's budget is already cresting over projections approved this spring, with officials already looking to trim costs.

A sergeant and four officers will be moved from patrol duty to work on the task force, which will be part of the current Gang Enforcement Team. The unit also will work with the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, as well as Holton's office, to pursue federal gun charges as often as possible—especially if that leads to longer prison sentences, officials said.

Adams also outlined another one of his anti-gang plans: a promise to roll out a hotline where someone who wanted to leave behind could call for help. That was part of his answer when the Skanner asked him if he was concerned about how the extra enforcement might affect juveniles. But he had another answer, too.

"Whether you're a juvenile or an adult, if you have an illegal gun, get rid of it," he said. "My position is very, very clear."

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