PPB union troubled over decision to alter shifts

PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN 6) — The Portland Police Association (PPA) filed a grievance this weekend after learning the chief of police will roll out a new shift configuration bureau-wide.

On Friday, Chief Lawrence P. O’Dea III sent an email to all bureau employees in which he announced his plan to implement a five shift configuration by February.

Currently, the bureau operates under a three-shift configuration: day shift (7 a.m. – 5 p.m.), afternoon shift (4 p.m. – 2 a.m.) and night shift (10 p.m. – 8 a.m.). Under O’Dea’s new plan, one of the new shifts will start at 12 p.m., the other at 6 p.m.

In his e-mail, obtained by KOIN 6 News on Monday, O’Dea writes the new configuration “will allow us to have more bodies when we need them and less when we don’t.”

To reach a 40-hour work week, officers work four, 10 hour shifts. O’Dea writes that it’s “imperative” that he keep the current 10-hour a day shift to allow officers three days off. He writes in his email that having only three shifts on a 4/10 configuration “does not allow us to staff efficiently or effectively around the workload.” O’Dea said in his email that “most of the departments around us have gone to a 4 or 5 shift patrol model for the same reasons.”

KOIN 6 News has also learned that O’Dea is pulling officers from specialty units to back fill vacant patrol shifts. The decision is coming under fire by rank and file within the bureau.

PPB Chief Larry O'Dea in a file photo.
PPB Chief Larry O’Dea in a file photo.

PPA President Daryl Turner calls the staffing issues facing the bureau “catastrophic.”

“We can’t afford to have fewer officers at any time,” Turner said.

Turner said the bureau’s number one mission is to respond to calls for service made by the public.

“And number 1.1 is to investigate crimes,” Turner said.

On Sunday, when a semi caught fire, after crashing on Highway 30, Turner said 15 officers and two sergeants responded. Under the five shift configuration, Turner said there would have only been 10 officers available to respond. If additional officers were needed, the bureau would need to pull from other precincts and officers wouldn’t be able to respond to non-priority calls, Turner said.

In an email to PPA members that was sent on Saturday, Turner said PPA is “very frustrated and disappointed by the Chief’s decision and the way he went about announcing such a dramatic change to the way patrol operates.”

Turner said O’Dea sent out his email an hour before the close of business on Friday.

“By sending an email out late on a Friday afternoon, the Chief is avoiding having to take responsibility for his very unpopular decision.”

Turner and PPA filed a grievance on Saturday.

“The Chief ignored the widespread opposition to a 5-shift configuration from both the rank-and-file and command staff,” Turner writes in his email.

“Adding two shifts to the Portland Police Bureau patrol schedule will provide better coverage of the city during times when police receive the most calls for service. A study looking at five years of data found that five shifts, rather than the current three, is a more effective and efficient way to schedule police services, making more patrol officers available to respond when they have the highest volume of calls. Bureau leadership over the next few weeks will continue discussing the details of implementation. Ultimately, our goal is to provide the best police service to Portlanders,” Mayor Charlie Hales said in a statement released to KOIN 6 News on Tuesday.

The PPA grievance calls on the city to “vacate” its “unilaterally implemented five-shift configuration until it first reaches agreement with PPA over all mandatorily negotiable subjects.”

Turner said he believes the new 5-shift configuration means there will be fewer officers on the streets between 3 a.m. and 12 p.m. That’s a concern for Turner because most violent crimes, car prowls, residential and commercial burglaries occur under the cover of darkness.

“We want our officers to be proactive and to be out in the community,” Turner said.

Turner said he is also concerned with the overall staffing level at the bureau. He said more officers are needed. By June 2016, the bureau said 93 officers will be eligible for retirement. Since Jan. 1, 2015, about 30 officers have retired from the bureau.

Currently, the bureau’s “authorized staffing level,” which includes every officer from the chief down to the bureau’s newest recruit is at 948. There are 42 vacancies, according to police spokesperson Sgt. Pete Simpson.

Turner said the minimum staffing per shift at each of the bureau’s three precincts is inadequate and cannot be consistently maintained. The Detective Division is under staffed, Turner said. Specialty units, like the Street Crimes Unit, the Neighborhood Response Team, and Gang Enforcement Team “are stretched to the limits of their resources.” Turner said SCU and NRT officers should be put back onto the streets full time until staffing levels are increased.

He said, “we can’t have all the toys in the box.”

The solution, according to Turner, is for City Hall increase the authorized staffing levels of the police bureau by 20% in the next five years.

According to statics provided by PPB, the bureau’s authorized staffing level for sworn officers was 1,039 in 2000, 1,049 in 2001, 991 in 2003, 995 in 2004, 997 in 2005, 1,015 in 2006, 1,003 in 2007, 1,005 in 2008, 977 in 2009, 978 in 2010, 986 in 2011, 986 in 2012, 944 in 2013 and 950 in 2014.

Calls for service, according to the bureau, have increased from 192,654 in 2010 to 224,388 in 2014. The number of officer self-initiated calls, however, has dropped from 209,689 in 2010 to 142,586 in 2014.

According to the Oregonian / OregonLive, the bureau spent $3.1 million in overtime through October of this fiscal year. The newspaper reports that is about $723,000 more than the bureau spent at the same point last year.

In his e-mail, O’Dea also writes about a plan to re-hire officers who have since retired from the bureau. He writes that there will be another meeting in February.

On Monday, KOIN 6 News requested a statement and an interview with O’Dea, but has not heard back from him. The Mayor’s office provided a statement on Tuesday afternoon.