Understaffed Portland police forced to shutter cold case unit, deal 'devastating' blow for families

Portland police have cited significantly ‘strained resources’ in recent days

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Portland police is shutting down its cold case division amid a soaring homicide rate, according to reports. 

Fox 12 and The Oregonian reported that Portland Police Bureau Chief Chuck Lovell is moving several detectives from other teams to the homicide division, including the supervisor of the cold case squad. 

In a recent email to department employees, Lovell said the current number of 18 homicide detectives is not sustainable with the number of homicides the bureau is responding to in Oregon’s largest city. 

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In addition to the sergeant who oversees the cold case team, six other detectives across the bureau will be reassigned to respond to active homicide cases. That will create the bureau’s third homicide detail. 

The chief said he intends the closure of the cold case team to be temporary, and Lovell plans to restaff the division again "as our resources increase."

Portland police investigate a shooting that took place during a protest for Amir Locke, which officials said left one dead and five others injured, on February 19, 2022 in Portland, Oregon. Locke was shot and killed by police in Minneapolis, Minnesota during a no-knock raid. 

Portland police investigate a shooting that took place during a protest for Amir Locke, which officials said left one dead and five others injured, on February 19, 2022 in Portland, Oregon. Locke was shot and killed by police in Minneapolis, Minnesota during a no-knock raid.  ((Photo by Nathan Howard/Getty Images))

KPTV reported that so far this year, Portland has seen 33 homicides, 31 of which were shootings. 

The closure of the cold case unit is "devastating" to one of the friends of homicide victim, Paul Krekeler. Also known as Paul Miler, the 19-year-old was gunned down in 2014 in a still unsolved murder case. 

"It’s devastating to the people who are affected by this," the victim’s friend, Kemper Woodruff, told Fox 12. "To a mother that has nothing but a jersey to hug and say she loves each day." 

Neighbors watch as Portland police investigate a shooting that took place during a protest for Amir Locke, which officials said left one dead and five others injured, on February 19, 2022 in Portland, Oregon. Locke was shot and killed by police in Minneapolis, Minnesota during a no-knock raid. 

Neighbors watch as Portland police investigate a shooting that took place during a protest for Amir Locke, which officials said left one dead and five others injured, on February 19, 2022 in Portland, Oregon. Locke was shot and killed by police in Minneapolis, Minnesota during a no-knock raid. 

"That’s torture. What about the future this person had that they weren’t truly able to live out?" Woodruff added, reacting to news that the cold case team was shut down. "What happens when it’s your best friend? What happens when it’s your kid and there’s no one there to research?" 

The news comes as the Portland Police Bureau said an "extraordinarily busy evening of significant events" had "strained resources" overnight Friday into Saturday when officers responded to five shootings, three significant crashes and a stolen ambulance within an about 12-hour time frame. 

Officers responded to a call about shots fired and people throwing objects off an overpass while a protest "convoy" driving through Portland was confronted by a group of counter-demonstrators. 

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No victims were immediately identified in that incident, as a group of 15 people began yelling at and harassing officers as they conducted their investigation, according to the bureau. 

As a result of the high call volume, all three precincts were placed on high priority, meaning officers only attended to life safety calls. The bureau acknowledged many lower priority calls did not get a response.