When Portland Police Bureau leadership asked officers to staff a new squad designed to address gun violence and the proliferation of the deadly weapons, only four people initially raised their hands.
Officer Chris Baten was one of them.
The Focused Intervention Team was off to a rocky start, plagued by community concerns that the squad was merely a hastily camouflaged reconfiguration of prior Gang Enforcement and Gun Violence Reduction teams that had been accused of racial profiling. Officers, meanwhile, worried that the assignment could be a career-killer because of a lack of City Hall support.
But Baten — who spent 14 years as a detective assigned to a federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives task force in Florida — said he was eager to apply last year, seeing an opportunity to make the city safer.
“I know how to deal with this problem,” said Baten, who joined the Police Bureau two years ago. “It is going to be a much harder job, but it’s a needed job. And I’m prepared for it.”
Baten and the new team’s other officers began tackling the challenge Wednesday as they deployed from the bureau’s North Precinct for their first shift.
Their mission? Curb the city’s epidemic of gun violence, which has left five people dead so far this year. At least 92 people were killed in Portland homicides last year, far exceeding the previous record of 70, and more than three-quarters of the victims were slain by gunfire.
Asked if the new team has the support of elected leaders, Police Chief Chuck Lovell answered bluntly in the affirmative. He said the team will focus on guns, not gangs, but acknowledged that “we’ve done this work before.”
“With the Gang Enforcement Team, with the Gun Violence Reduction Team, those were good officers doing good work, and that work proved unsustainable,” he told reporters as the new team rolled out. “We have to remain flexible and try to come at this work in a data-driven way and be as effective as possible.”
The Focused Intervention Team will work in tandem with the bureau’s Enhanced Community Safety Team, which was formed in 2021, and fall under the agency’s Strategic Services division. The team is led by a captain, lieutenant and two sergeants, and has 12 officers plus four back-up officers, the Oregonian/OregonLive previously reported.
Officer Daniel Trummer, one of the members of the new team, is no stranger to the shifting sands of police policy.
A six-year veteran of the force, Trummer served as a school resource officer for Benson and Jefferson high schools before the bureau nixed that assignment in 2020 while under public pressure.
His hesitancy about whether to join the Focused Intervention Team dissolved after the bureau announced the team’s leaders, and he was one of 46 officers who ultimately put their hats in the ring.
“I’m part of the community,” Trummer said. “I live in a community. I hear the gunshots.”
Some of the students he knew from his days working in classrooms have already been killed, he said, victims of gun violence on the streets.
“I’ve felt this sense of urgency to be part of a solution and have a positive impact in our community,” Trummer said. “It’s meaningful work that needs to be done.”
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