The presence of bicycle patrol police downtown is about to increase.
Portland Police Bureau (PPB) announced Friday, October 6 that Oregon State Police (OSP) troopers have been assigned to a pilot project to help patrol downtown Portland. OSP will primarily join PPB bike cops.
OSP was assigned by Gov. Tina Kotek as part of a new strategic enforcement effort geared toward getting fentanyl off Portland's streets. The agency wouldn't immediately disclose how many troopers have been assigned to Portland, citing a desire to conceal "strategies and tactics."
PPB Officer David Baer, who currently works on the bureau’s central precinct bike squad, told reporters he expects anywhere from four to eight law enforcement officers to be out on downtown patrols with Portland police each day, for an indefinite period.
Baer and a huddle of news cameras assembled in front of a boarded up building at the corner of SW 4th and Washington, as a man nodded off and slumped over beside a woman just feet away.
Baer said he hopes to be able to ramp up arrests for fentanyl dealing, while having more resources to spot stolen vehicles or respond to other emergencies as they happen.
“Obviously there’s a focus on fentanyl,” Baer said. “We’re looking to do more than just drug enforcement. We’re looking to do stolen vehicles, you know, burglaries, thefts, be present in the community, [respond to] crimes in progress, things that people are concerned about when it comes to safety.”
Earlier this year, Oregon lawmakers passed House Bill 2645, which made it a Class A misdemeanor to possess a gram, or five or more user units of fentanyl.
PPB said the collaborative effort will focus on “reducing criminal activity through high-visibility uniformed police presence and enforcement activities.”
The pilot project won’t be entirely bike-based. Police said a patrol car is frequently needed to help transport people or assist with arrests, though Baer admitted he’s used the MAX train to transport suspects to jail, when needed.
The last time state police were sent to Portland was in 2020, as protests were taking hold in the wake of George Floyd's murder by police in Minneapolis. At the time, then-Gov. Kate Brown sent 50 members of the Oregon National Guard and 100 state troopers.
The increased patrols come as city and state leaders are throwing a mountain of resources into revitalizing downtown Portland.
Last week, Gov. Kotek announced OSP would launch a Fentanyl Strategic Enforcement and Disruption Initiative, with saturation patrols and drug enforcement teams focused on combating fentanyl dealing, distribution and use in Portland.
“I want all Oregonians to know that the state is moving forward with several new fentanyl strategic enforcement and disruption strategies,” Kotek said in a September 26 announcement. “As we work to cut the supply of fentanyl and hold dealers accountable for selling dangerous drugs, I also remain fully committed to expanding access to critical behavioral health services.”
Kotek also recently convened a new Central City Task Force that includes more than 100 members, each assigned to a committee to address issues ranging from taxes, to livability, public safety, and homelessness.