Lack of cops may nix 2017 Portland Marathon

This year's marathon set for October 8, 2017

Runners participating in the Portland Marathon cross the Broadway Bridge Sunday, October 5, 2014 (Lucia Martinez)
Runners participating in the Portland Marathon cross the Broadway Bridge Sunday, October 5, 2014 (Lucia Martinez)

PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — For the 2016 Portland Marathon, rain did not deter the 10,000 runners from taking to the streets of the Rose City. But this year, the annual marathon is in jeopardy.

The City of Portland denied a permit for the 2017 Portland Marathon because the planned course would require more police officers to staff than the force has available. City officials said they asked the organizers of the marathon to change their route to accommodate the staffing issues, but that didn’t happen.

Marathon director Les Smith, though, is convinced there are enough Portland police to adequately staff and provide security for the event. He’s baffled why the city would deny their permit.

“The facts don’t support it,” Smith told KOIN 6 News. “Why would you kill the goose that lays the golden eggs?”

The rain didn’t stop runners from participating in the Portland Marathon, October 9, 2016. (KOIN)

The marathon, he said, is “Portland’s largest 3-day convention. It produces well over 15,000 room nights. If you do the math, that’s over $275,000 in hotel tax money. We pay for the event. We’re not getting any of that money.”

But the city maintains they are facing an unprecedented shortage of police officers. It’s not about the money, they say, but about security and the lack of staffing to secure it.

“We need the marathon to work with us to design an event that can be staffed by 33 police officers working overtime, not 80 police officers (on) overtime,” said PBOT’s Dylan Rivera.

The city notified the marathon in October 2016 they would have to change the routed so it could be secured with 33 officers.

Now, Rivera said, there are even more severe staffing shortages at PPB.

“They announced that to the marathon last fall. We’ve heard nothing from the marathon,” he told KOIN 6 News. “They’ve not engaged in the process. Shamrock Run has worked with us.”

In fact, the Shamrock Run did re-route their course for their most recent run in March.

Smith said he sent 2 letters to PBOT about the issue.

“I’m more than willing to work with the city and the police to be able to keep our course as it is,” Smith said.

The organizers with the Portland Marathon have until Friday to appeal PBOT’s decision. If that appeal is denied, they plan to go directly to the Portland City Council.