Police union calls for City Council to hire more officers

Portland Tribune File Photo

The union representing rank and file Portland police officers wants city residents to press the City Council to hire more officers.

The Portland Police Association has launched a public relations campaign called “Having Enough Police Matters” that includes an online petition and billboards in various parts of the city intended to convey the message the Portland Police Bureau is understaffed.

“Inadequate staffing in the Police Bureau is hurting our communities and putting all of us at risk. Nothing is more basic to the livability of a city than public safety. We need City Council to take immediate action to fix this critical staffing shortage. Our city and our officers deserve better,” says PPA President Daryl Turner, a Portland police sergeant.

Mayor Charlie Hales admits there are current and upcoming vacancies in the bureau that need to be filled. Hales, who is in charge of the bureau, says steps are being taken to accelerate the hiring of new officers, according to his spokeswoman, Sara Hottman.

According to Hottman, the bureau currently has 35 vacant sworn positions and 41 more sworn members are projected to leave this fiscal year through retirements and resignations.

“Mayor Hales says clearly there is an urgent need. These positions have been budgeted for more than a year; retirements have been more frequent, and with police agencies nationwide hiring, recruiting has been more competitive. In response, Mayor Hales authorized the hiring of 11 new background investigators to accelerate the hiring process, and has been recruiting new police officers at every possible turn. Additionally, Chief [Larry] O’Dea and a new personnel director Vincent Woods are taking a new approach to address long-term hiring needs,” Hottman said in an email to the Portland Tribune.

“The background investigators are going through the hiring process now, and should be active at the beginning of the year. Mayor Hales encourages people to visit JoinPortlandPolice.com for information on applying,” Hottman continued.

According to Turner, the bureau does not currently have enough officers to respond to calls for service, investigating and solving crimes, address the deadly upswing in gun and gang violence, serve those who are impacted by livability issues surrounding homelessness,

assist citizens with mental illness and those suffering mental health crises; engage in community policing; and ensure the safety of Portland citizens and officers.

“Yet, police bureau staffing levels are dwindling even as our city continues to grow. Officers are forced to do more with less, and the community pays the price. In fact, the police bureau is around 700 hundred officers short of national staffing benchmarks,” says Turner, referring to an FBI recommendation.

The police bureau has lost 190 positions since 2001, according to city personnel figures recently obtained by the Portland Tribune through a public records request. An earlier Portland Tribune story on the issue can be read atwww.pamplinmedia.com/pt/9-news/265871-138823-citys-thin-blue-line-is-getting-thinner.

The PPA campaign includes a website with a petition at OurCityOurPolice.org.