8/17/2023 News Roundup Part 2


<<Court cases across Oregon are taking longer and longer to resolve. This has a variety of consequences, including the fact that pretrial defendants are spending more time behind bars.

It’s a particularly acute problem in Multnomah County, according to Oregon Judicial Department reports reviewed by WW. Less than half of criminal cases in Multnomah County Circuit Court are resolved within state “timely disposition” goals. Those benchmarks measure the percentage of misdemeanor and felony cases that resolve within 90 days and 180 days, respectively.

The goal is 90%. For felonies, Multnomah County is at 48%, the lowest rate of any county in the state. For misdemeanors, the Multnomah County rate is 37%—only Clatsop and Columbia do worse.

The goals were set in 2018 based on recommendations by the National Center for State Courts. “The intent is to encourage the fair disposition of cases at the earliest possible time,” the center says.

There are two major drivers of this trend, explains Multnomah County trial court administrator Barbara Marcille: the pandemic, when court proceedings slowed as everything transitioned online, and a reduction in misdemeanor filings.

“Those lower-level criminal cases typically resolve more quickly, and more are dismissed due to plea negotiations and diversion programs,” she tells WW. In other words, the court is dealing with a greater proportion of felony cases, which suck up more time, and leave fewer resources to mop up the misdemeanors.

But most misdemeanor cases resolved in 2022 were filed prior to 2021, she says. In short: The court is playing catch-up, and defendants are being forced to wait as a result.>>



<<On Wednesday, Portland City Council unanimously approved an emergency ordinance intended to temporarily incentivize Portland police officers and sergeants to sign up for overtime shifts. The rate of pay for officers and sergeants who work overtime will increase from 1.5 times their normal rate to double time for the next 60 days.

The ordinance will add a letter of agreement to modify the current collective bargaining agreement between the city and the Portland Police Association.

The total amount of enhanced overtime that is allowed to be spent is $1 million and will come from PPB’s current year budget.>>

<<“The real challenge right now though is that when people call 911, we need to make sure we have enough people to respond to those acute emergencies,” Aaron Schmautz, president of the Portland Police Association, told KGW.

Schmautz said that he looked at staffing levels for May and June 2023 and said every shift was short an average of four officers, for a total of 1,500 shifts per month.>>

<<According to the Portland Police Bureau’s website, as of August 15, PPB had 70 vacant officer positions. While the agency has a total of 535 officers, 96 are in training and 25 on leave. Only 291 are currently assigned to patrol across the city’s three precincts, and significantly fewer are working on a given shift.>>

<<The city’s recruitment portal says that officer salaries start at $79,456 with a $5,000 signing bonus and benefits 95% paid by the city. Lateral hires are more likely to earn around $100,000 a year.>>


<<The Portland Police Bureau will use $1 million from its budget to begin paying officers double their standard rate of pay to work overtime in hopes of better filling vacant patrol shifts amid the bureau’s ongoing staffing crisis.

The Portland City Council unanimously approved the Portland Police Bureau’s request during its Aug. 16 meeting. The approved emergency ordinance modifies the city’s collective bargaining agreement with the Portland Police Association, changing the established overtime rate from time and a half to double time. >>



<<As of Monday afternoon, special ambulances staffed with non-paramedics are being dispatched directly to some low-priority calls in Multnomah County, according to a new operational policy document dated yesterday and obtained by WW.

It’s an effort to address a shortage of paramedics that has left the county with too few ambulances on duty and delayed response times. The county launched the pilot program earlier this year that replaces paramedics on some “basic life support” ambulances with two lesser-trained emergency medical technicians.

But for months, the ambulances couldn’t respond alone—the county required them be accompanied by another paramedic-staffed ambulance because officials didn’t have faith in dispatchers to reliably identify low-priority calls.

No longer. In a statement yesterday, the county confirmed the change.

“We will be monitoring closely to address any issues that may come up in the next several days as we use this new process,” says the county health department’s spokeswoman, Sarah Dean. “The decision was made after a thorough review of the calls and the types of patients within those call types.”

This marks the beginning of a true “two-tiered” ambulance dispatch system in Multnomah County. The system is considered the gold standard and has been implemented successfully in cities like Seattle and New York City. In 2021, BLS ambulances responded alone to 80% of calls in Seattle.

For now, according to the county EMS policy document, “BLS ambulances will now be dispatched directly to 130 triage call types.” There are three active BLS ambulances, it says, numbered 400, 401 and 402.

But Dean says only two are currently on duty. The county has said American Medical Response has struggled to hire not only paramedics, but EMTs as well, and Multnomah County Chair Jessica Vega Pederson recently announced she would begin fining AMR for its poor performance.

AMR vice president of Northwest operations Randy Lauer says the company is currently training 16 EMTs and plans to have eight BLS ambulances running within a month.>>



<<Portland police officers increased the number of traffic stops in 2023’s second quarter versus the year’s first quarter by nearly 25%, according to data released by the bureau. However, the number of traffic stops for 2023’s second quarter still lags behind the same time period in 2019, before the pandemic and social unrest of 2020.

In the second quarter of this year, the Portland Police Bureau’s Strategic Services Division reported that officers made 4,401 traffic stops. For the second quarter of 2019, this number was nearly double — at 8,569 recorded stops.

Although PPB’s traffic stops were cut in half from the second quarter of 2019 compared to the second quarter of 2023, officers recorded a surge from the first quarter to the second quarter of this year.

Authorities said there were about 3,527 traffic stops from January through March during 2023’s first quarter, compared to the 4,401 from April through June this year. By comparison, the first quarter of 2019 saw 8,114 traffic stops, according to the data.

According to PPB spokesperson Lt. Nathan Sheppard, there are several factors that contribute to the significant decrease comparing 2023’s data to 2019’s — one of them being the rise and fall of the Traffic Division.

Starting in 2021, the division went on a two-year hiatus due to staffing shortages. The Portland police previously said that was the most fatal year for pedestrian traffic fatalities in the city, but 2022 later broke the 70-year high.>>

<<In the seven weeks following the division’s return, officers issued more than 1,800 citations and warnings — compared to the fewer than 750 that were issued in the seven weeks before.>>

<<The public information officer also noted recent changes in legislation. Signed into law in 2022, Senate Bill 1510 prohibits officers from stopping drivers for minor violations such as broken headlights or brake lights. The measure also requires officers to tell drivers they can refuse a search during a traffic stop.

“Also, society’s expectations — including on the subject of policing — has changed over the past few years, so there are many nuances to this answer,” Sheppard said.>>


<<A drunk driver crashed into a Tigard police car while an officer was investigating a separate DUII on the side of the road on Friday, according to Tigard police.

Police say officers pulled over a suspected drunk driver who was going 106 mph in a 55 mph zone on Highway 217 near the Denny Road exit — the driver allegedly kept going for nearly two miles before stopping.

While officers were out of their vehicle conducting field sobriety tests, a different driver crashed into their unoccupied patrol car, police said. The driver was arrested and later charged with DUII reckless driving, reckless endangering, reckless endangerment of a highway worker and second-degree criminal mischief.

The driver who got pulled over on the highway was also arrested and charged with DUII, reckless driving and recklessly endangering a highway worker.>>


<<The Tigard Police Department says a drunk driver struck a police car while the officer was investigating a separate drunk driver.

The incident happened just after 2 a.m. Friday on the side of Highway 217. According to police, the officer had stopped a driver going 106 miles per hour in a 55 miles per hour zone.

After a 2-mile pursuit, the driver came to a stop near the Denny Road exit.

While conducting a sobriety test for the suspected drunk driver, a car crashed into a parked patrol car, according to Tigard P.D. Officers say neither the woman who was driving or her passenger were injured.

The unidentified driver was arrested on charges of DUII, reckless driving, reckless endangering, reckless endangerment of a highway worker and criminal mischief II.

The first drunk driver was arrested for DUII, reckless driving and recklessly endangering a highway worker.>>



<<City leaders sat in on a community meeting Wednesday night to discuss the future of Portland Street Response.

The city program has been tasked with responding to people in a mental health crisis since 2020 but continues to face uncertainty amid funding and staffing challenges.

As this program moves from pilot to permanence, city leaders say they are still facing challenges as it pertains to funding and defining what this program will be.

“The skill set you need to get something off the ground is not always the skill set you need in phase two or three of an organization,” said Rene Gonazlez, Portland city commissioner of public safety. “There’s this hope that we are getting them along the path to a better future for them. And the challenge is sometimes you call PSR and they’re going to respond and that individual is not going to accept the services that are offered.”

Gonzalez is in charge of the Portland Fire Bureau which houses PSR. His comments Wednesday night come after a petition in support of expanding the program was sent to Portland City Hall with more than 10,000 signatures.

“I want to remind you that Portlanders love PSR and people want it to be available 24/7, 365 days a year,” said Annie, a community member.

“Portlanders also wanted to PSR members to be able to go into homes and to be able to give life-saving supplies like tarps and tents to the homeless.”>>



<<Residents of a Southeast Portland neighborhood have grown increasingly frustrated after a series of camp sweeps in their area were left incomplete.

In May, Lents resident Terry Eggebrecht said she wanted to host a Saturday market on their street, but city permits were pricey. However, the city couldn’t guarantee the sidewalk or street would be free of a homeless encampment that had taken over the area.

Since then, the city has issued sweeps in the area, but residents say they were only partially done because PBOT wasn’t there to help move the vehicles.

Residents who live at the intersection of Southeast 83rd Avenue and Duke Street look outside their front doors every day and still see a homeless encampment.

“Everyone involved is caring and they are doing the best that they can,” resident Josh Ross said. “The system is broken.”

Ross told KOIN 6 he feels trapped because he doesn’t feel safe leaving his home unoccupied.

“We get yelled at in the front of the house, and we don’t want to be out here,” he said. “It feels really helpless and feels really alone. It feels scary.”

Ross follows the systems in place to report encampments. He has dedicated the past six months to learn the processes and procedures and try and find the right person to connect the homeless to the necessary services.

“Ultimately, through all the digging, I found that there’s not really anyone like that,” Ross said. “No one exists.”>>

<<KOIN 6 spoke with a woman named Emily, who lives in a tent on the sidewalk. She said she gets why neighbors are fed up.

“I understand both sides of it,” she said. “Our spot is pretty blown up and overrun right now.”

But she says it’s a two-way street.

“We as houseless people get harassed a lot – the same way that the people in the houses feel like they get harassed by us,” she said.>>


<<Multnomah County continues to sit on millions of unspent dollars intended to support homeless services, an issue that first came to prominence late last year. At that time, the county had collected about $47 million more than expected from the voter-approved Supportive Housing Services Tax.

By May, the county still had not spent the excess — an issue met with rising frustration as the summer began, with local service providers and shelters struggling to make ends meet and wanting to know why the money is not being put to use.

Nowhere is that frustration more apparent than at Helping Hands Reentry Outreach Centers, the nonprofit that operates Bybee Lakes Hope Center out of the erstwhile Wapato Jail. The organization announced this week that it would temporarily suspend new referrals for shelter due to “overwhelming demand” for services and “a lack of financial support.”

Founder and president Alan Evans has made no secret of his desire for government backing, which has not been forthcoming. Thus far, the enterprise has been primarily privately funded by outside donations and by residents’ fees.

“It’s extremely frustrating to know that at the end of the year there’s so many millions of dollars left over, and we’re saying ‘We want to help, we’re on your team, but we need your help to provide that service,’ and they would rather end the year with money not spent then give us the opportunity to do our job,” Evans told KGW.

Historically, county officials have indicated that they avoided Bybee Lakes because they prefer to fund low-barrier shelters and transitional housing options. Bybee Lakes stands out for its list of rules: Prospective residents must be referred by one of the organization’s partners, they must be clean and sober while living in the facility, and they need to be working and paying $250 a month for their space after about 60 days. It does have a separate emergency shelter that promises low-barrier services.

As of the organization’s statement this week, Bybee Lakes reported having 175 beds in use and capacity for more than 300 residents. It finalized an expansion to add much of its current unused capacity back in March.>>

<<As it turns out, the county has even more unspent funding than originally reported. In addition to the $47 million in additional taxpayer contributions, a county spokesperson said that there is $58 million in unspent funding from this fiscal year. So far, $40 million has been plugged into next year’s budget. That means that the county still has about $65 million available to spend on addressing homelessness.>>


<<It’s been roughly one month since homeless people started moving into Portland’s first, large-scale sanctioned campsite in Southeast Portland at the Clinton Triangle. The temporary alternative shelter site is part of Mayor Ted Wheeler’s aggressive plan to address homelessness. He plans to build six more across the city.

The one on Southeast Powell Boulevard can house 180 homeless people and 80 have moved in so far.>>

<<A spokesperson for the city of Portland said they’re moving people into the site slowly.>>


<<When Bend City Manager Eric King announced plans in June to clear the city’s largest encampments, he centered on one statistic in particular: 1,527 calls for police service to those areas in one year.

For King, the figure was a reflection of how unsafe areas of northern Bend had become and the drain these camps were taking on city resources.

“It’s not just the quantity of calls,” King said in a recent interview.

“It’s the types of calls and the unsafe situation for the residents living at Hunnell that played into that decision.”

The city completed removals of camps largely on Hunnell and Clausen roads last month, following weeks of legal pushback from service providers and dozens of people living in tents and RVs. Advocates for people experiencing homelessness said city officials overemphasized safety concerns as an excuse to displace between 60 and 150 people, many of whom said they had nowhere else to go.

OPB’s analysis of Bend police data shows a complicated picture. It’s true that people reported a number of violent crimes — including 15 reports of assault or rape, and 22 reports of hit-and-run incidents.

Some people who lived on Hunnell Road agreed, it didn’t feel safe.

But the bulk of incidents did not involve any alleged crimes, and many of the calls referenced by King were initiated by police officers themselves.

More than half of all the calls recorded between last summer and this summer did not involve alleged crimes against people or property.

Instead many of these calls focused on quality of life complaints such as reports of suspicious behavior, road hazards and welfare checks. More than 20% of all calls were police initiated, meaning the call came from officers on the ground and no one dialed 911.>>



<<The Portland Police Bureau is moving quickly to roll out body-worn cameras in the wake of the compromise reached this spring among its union, the city and the U.S. Department of Justice over policies governing their use.

The bureau plans to train officers in the Central Precinct and gun violence response team on use of the cameras this month, according to a “joint status report” filed in federal court on Aug. 8.

The city’s training, which focuses on circumstances in which the cameras should be used, will happen “either concurrently or close in time” with training by Axon, the manufacturer, on how to use the new technology.

The remaining officers will be trained on the new policy during “fall in-service training,” which will be completed before the end of the year.

The training, as well as the continued rollout of the program following a 60-day pilot, is contingent on approval by the Department of Justice, which took the city to court a decade ago over the Police Bureau’s use of force against people with mental illness.

The Portland Police Association and city officials long disagreed whether police should be allowed to review body-camera footage before writing a report. They came to a compromise earlier this year to “avoid the delays and uncertain outcomes of interest arbitration,” resulting in the new policy: It requires that officers give a recorded account of what happened before reviewing video in cases where someone is injured or dies.>>