Staffing Issues Put Us All at Risk

In Local, President's Message, Staffing by rapsheet

As the summer begins, the rank and file of the Portland Police Bureau (PPB) is faced with the daunting task of policing the city while being dangerously understaffed and overworked. Almost every shift, in every precinct, every single day is hiring officers to work overtime in order to reach the required minimums, which have been reduced by about 150 sworn positions over the past 15 years.

Many days begin understaffed and below minimums for the first 2-3 hours until supervisors can find already overworked officers to volunteer for overtime. With no remedy in site for this critically low staffing issue, some days entire shifts are below minimums because officers are no longer willing to work the long hours plus overtime.

The majority of the rank and file of the PPB and I have brought these concerns and consequences of inadequate staffing to the attention of PPB management, City Council members, and Mayor Hales.

At midpoint of 2015:

  • Gang violence is soaring to record proportions.
  • Community policing and community engagement is difficult at best with the work load issues faced by patrol officers and detectives.
  • The safety of our officers and the communities they serve is being jeopardized everyday.

Mayor Hales recently proposed to add 17 new positions to the PPB yet only 5 will be sworn officers. Only 6 officers were permanently moved to the Gang Enforcement Team. In the month of May alone there were 21 retirements, 17 of which were rank and file PPA members. Even with the 7 new recruits hired last month, we continue to fall behind in regards to staffing.

What is the solution?

Where do we begin to solve this problem? How does the rank and file of the PPB continue to try and keep communities safe? How do we keep our officers safe?

Mayor Hales once proclaimed that the City of Portland needs to have a back-to-basics approach which helped the budget to a $49 million surplus.

In my opinion, nothing is more basic to the livability of a city than public safety. At this critical time, it’s important to look at both short and long term goals and strategies.

The short term goals should include: prioritizing staffing of the bureau and taking calls for service, investigating crimes, confronting gang violence head-on, and community policing. We could achieve this goal by committing a portion of the $49 million surplus to hiring 100 officers in the next 18 months. This requires aggressively recruiting both new and lateral officers from all over the country along with the implementation of a retire/rehire program in which officers can retire then be rehired by the Police Bureau, saving the city money on the hiring process and training costs at DPSST.

The long term goals for staffing call for the Mayor and the City Council to increase the authorized staffing of the bureau to 1,300 sworn employees by the year 2020. This requires enhancing the reserve and cadet programs to mainstream potential candidates from those programs to fully sworn PPB officers.

The safety and well being of the citizens of Portland and the our officers are in the hands of elected officials and the management of the bureau. We cannot wait for gang violence to get worse. We cannot wait for another innocent citizen to be hit by a stray bullet or an officer to be killed in the line of duty.

The staffing issues of the PPB are real and dangerous. They must be addressed by our leaders to protect our communities and those who go out daily sacrificing everything to keep our communities safe.

Daryl Turner, President
Portland Police Association