Law enforcement agencies in Portland, Oregon, are conducting an arson investigation after a car owned by Portland City Commissioner of Public Safety Rene Gonzalez was set ablaze on Friday morning. They suspect the act was a political statement against the commissioner, who is supportive of the police.
An arson investigation is underway after a car was set on fire outside the home of Portland Commissioner Rene Gonzalez early Friday.
The car is owned by a member of Gonzalez’s family.
Gonzalez’s office said that additional steps are being taken to enhance security for the commissioner, his family, neighbors, and staff. In a statement, Gonzalez said:
“Thanks to the prompt response of Portland Fire & Rescue, the fire was unable to spread to any neighboring homes or vehicles. My neighborhood is filled with both families and seniors, and we must do everything in our power to protect them. I am grateful that nobody was physically harmed as a result of this incident.
In a statement issued on Friday, Multnomah County District Attorney Mike Schmidt indicated that the crime could have been motivated by politics. In a Friday afternoon statement, he said:
“Acts of political violence and acts of political vandalism are unacceptable and will not be tolerated. Commissioner Gonzalez and everyone else in a public leadership role is here to serve this community because they love this community.
“Everybody is free to agree or disagree with me, the Commissioner, or any public servant or political candidate. But threats, vandalism, arson, violence, or any other form of illegal coercion will not be tolerated. If confirmed arson, we will find and prosecute those responsible for this act to the fullest extent of the law.”
Gonzalez, who is running for mayor, is considered to be one of the more conservative members on the city council, which could have also played into this incident. It is possible that the arson was motivated by his overall political stances rather than just his views on law enforcement. Antifa and other leftist activists engaged in numerous violent demonstrations in Portland during the George Floyd protests.
The city is currently experiencing a staffing crisis, which some attribute to the anti-police sentiment that has run rampant in the city over the past four years.
Like other major cities, Portland, Oregon, has experienced a surge in crime and disorder over the past three years. But unlike other major cities, Portland is uniquely ill-equipped to deal with this problem, because its police department is uniquely understaffed. With just 1.26 officers per every 1,000 residents, the Portland Police Bureau (PPB) ranks 48th among the nation’s 50 largest cities for its staffing-to-population ratio. As a result, PPB struggles to provide even basic service, taking up to half an hour to respond to high-priority calls.
As this report shows, the staffing crisis has both short-run and long-run causes. In the short run, the city’s particularly harmful riots following the 2020 murder of George Floyd, as well as its leadership’s embrace of the “defund the police” movement, dealt a massive blow to police morale, driving mass resignations and retirements, which have continued to hamstring operations. But that shift was just the culmination of years of declining staffing-to-population ratios, driven by challenges in hiring and training that preexist the protests.
Portland Fire and Rescue found evidence that the car was set on fire deliberately, which has prompted the arson investigation. However, law enforcement has not yet arrested any suspects for the crime.