Multnomah County approved its $2.06 billion budget Tuesday, which saw funding for the county’s sheriff’s office reduced slightly amid national calls to pull funding from law enforcement.
After weeks of nightly protests against police violence, the county commissioners made changes to the budget that reduced funding for the sheriff’s office by $1.7 million. The office had been poised to receive $165.6 million.
These savings came from closing a jail dorm, cutting back on funding for school resource officers in the Corbett School District, and reducing the number of people booked into jail for low-level misdemeanors, according to information provided by a county spokesperson.
It was not the major reduction in funding that some advocacy groups had been pushing for.
With the passage last week of Portland’s budget that cut $15 million from the police bureau, some groups had turned their attention to the county’s budget. Care Not Cops and Black & Pink PDX, two groups pushing for police and prison abolition, had asked for funding to the Multnomah County Sheriff’s office, along with the county’s Department of Community Justice and the District Attorney’s office, be reduced by a fifth.
In remarks made before Tuesday’s vote, some of the county commissioners said they recognized the new budget does not go as far as advocates had been urging — but emphasized the process of revisioning community safety in the county was just beginning.
“I recognize that this budget does not reflect the magnitude of change being demanded by protesters, advocates and employees,” said County Commissioner Susheela Jayapal, noting they’d received thousands of emails and phone calls from residents. “…This is just the beginning.”
As an answer to widespread calls for changes to policing, the county crafted a $2 million “community health reinvestment plan,” which was incorporated into the budget. As part of the plan, the county will close a jail dorm, reduce the District Attorney’s budget by $406,000 through changes to misdemeanor prosecution and restore cuts to the County’s Healthy Birth Initiative, which provides support to pregnant black women, who experience disproportionately high rates of infant mortality.
Chair Deborah Kafoury said the county wanted to invest in ways to help residents avoid initial contact with police.
“We’re also answering the call to celebrate public safety system reform and invest our precious dollars in the kind of community support that [is] needed long before someone has an encounter with law enforcement.”
“Today is an important step,” she said. “But I know that there is so much more that we need to do.”
In a series of budget notes, county commissioners also asked for briefings by this fall from the sheriff’s office on jail labor, electronic monitoring and how officers are trained. As part of this briefing, they requested “data on use of force and drawing of weapons” from both corrections and deputy sheriffs officers that had taken place over the past last five years.
The proposed budget will also see $89 million put toward efforts to reduce the threat of COVID-19, including contact tracing, community testing and quarantine monitoring.
The budget will kick in July 1.