Police shortage alters Shamrock Run courses

Shamrock Run scheduled for March 19, 2017

Runners take part in the Shamrock Run in 2016 (KOIN, file)
Runners take part in the Shamrock Run in 2016 (KOIN, file)

PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — The upcoming Shamrock Run in March won’t run through downtown Portland because there is a severe police staffing issue.

This year’s run on March 19 is scheduled to leave from Tom McCall Waterfront Park in Portland. The routes for the 5k, 8k, the half-marathon and the 15k are all different.

See the routes on ShamrockRunPortland.com

The Portland Police Bureau is so short on officers the city is now limiting how many officers it will provide for special events like runs and walks.

That forced organizers with the Shamrock Run to change their routes and meet safety standards with the number of officers provided.

Shamrock Run race director Steve Hamilton, January 19, 2017 (KOIN)
Shamrock Run race director Steve Hamilton, January 19, 2017 (KOIN)

“Because of the police shortages we’ve lost a couple of iconic sections of the Shamrock Run,” said race director Steve Hamilton. “That’s the Pearl District area, the Pearl District and then downtown along Broadway.”

John Brady with the Portland Bureau of Transportation — the agency that issues the permits for these special events — said they will only be giving permits to existing walks and runs that can meet traffic safety standards using 33 officers or less.

The police stopped accepting new athletic events in mid-2015 and the limitation of officers was announced in October 2016, Brady told KOIN 6 News.

Other events Brady said that may be affected by this staffing issue include the Race for the Cure, Cinco de Mayo run, the Bridge Pedal, the Portland Marathon and Run Like Hell.

The same staffing issues also inspired The Rose Festival Half Marathon to move to Beaverton.

But Rich Jarvis with the Portland Rose Festival told KOIN 6 News they work with police to manage their events, and pointed to CityFair.

 “More than a few years ago, we re-designed the fair to include fencing and gates,” Jarvis said in an email to KOIN 6 News.  “Narrowing the entry point and charging admission effectively cut out the ‘people’ problems that came with an open event. The police used to station dozens of officers at CityFair and now they are down to just a few patrolling each night.

The Shamrock Run takes over downtown Portland (UncageTheSoulProduction/ShamrockRunPortland.com)
The Shamrock Run takes over downtown Portland (UncageTheSoulProduction/ShamrockRunPortland.com)

“Last year we paid for 64 officers, so it’s a drastic change in the amount of police that are available,” said the Shamrock Run’s Hamilton. “As a result we had to re-tool our routes.”

Winding through the downtown core was police intensive, he said, and the new routes were adapted to avoid that.

“We’re not allowed to bring in outside law enforcement agencies. We’re not allowed to hire private security. We’re not allowed to use flaggers (at intersections with signals),” he said. “Those are the kinds of things that were part of the policy.”

He said the city has been very cooperative in helping to preserve the 15k route as much as possible, and he admitted the new routes have some positive attributes.

“We’ve got faster routes, we’ve got fewer transit crossings so fewer delays, the 5k gets to go first – they’ve always been last now they’re first – they’ve got a fast out-and-back route along SW Naito, so,” Hamilton said, “they’re first in line for beer garden. It’s not all bad.”

Portland police said they’re in touch with the organizers of other large events to come up with a way to make them work under the current police staffing policies.

“It’s very, very unfortunate that these major iconic events that mean so much to the city are being impacted,” Hamilton told KOIN 6 News. “We’re going to do the best we can for Shamrock and then we’re going to keep our fingers crossed down the road for a political solution.”