On May 9th, the Portland Police Bureau (PPB) announced it would partially re-institute the Traffic Division. In 2021, Chief Chuck Lovell transferred officers to precincts to answer 911 emergency calls during a police shortage, and the division has remained mostly unstaffed until now. In this limited iteration of traffic-focused policing, two sergeants, ten motorcycle officers, and two car-based officers will work seven days a week from 5 p.m. to 3 a.m.
Chief Lovell acknowledges a steep increase in fatal crashes since transferring officers from the Traffic Division. Although BBP remains understaffed and continues to face an increased 911 call volume, the public’s desire for traffic enforcement has prompted this slight shift in priority. 2022 logged 68 fatal crashes, with nearly half involving pedestrians. On April 28th, Montavilla was the site of a deadly vehicle-pedestrian crash involving a person in a wheelchair. The early morning incident at NE 82nd Avenue and Glisan Street took the life of someone thought to be in a crosswalk. PPB feels having officers patrolling High-crash Corridors during the evening hours should help curb reckless and impaired driving, reducing the number of deadly crashes.
The current Traffic Division is smaller than pre-pandemic levels and will focus on reducing dangerous driving behaviors, including Driving Under the Influence of Intoxicants (DUII) detection and investigation. Traffic officers will also support traffic-related calls for service, investigating severe and fatal injury crashes. This limited return to enforcement may strike a balance between discouraging the most dangerous drivers from harmful behavior and not over-policing an often profiled population. Expect more officers on the streets pulling over motorists and issuing warnings or citations.
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