Aggressive recruiting, hiring essential for Portland PD to fill vacancies, report says


By Maxine Bernstein

PORTLAND, Ore. — So far, Portland police have failed to convince even a retired officer to step back into the force to help close historic personnel shortfalls as they deal with the potential loss of dozens of other officers eligible for retirement in the summer.

The shortage should prompt the police bureau to move into recruiting immediately, city budget analysts have recommended in a new report.

Police The police are seeking $16.9 million in ongoing funding to increase their 882 authorized sworn officer positions by 67 and add 33 public safety specialists who respond to non-emergency lower-level calls.

Police The police are seeking $16.9 million in ongoing funding to increase their 882 authorized sworn officer positions by 67 and add 33 public safety specialists who respond to non-emergency lower-level calls. (Marc Graves)

Simply adding money for new jobs won’t help, according to analysts who assessed the bureau’s $254 million budget request for the 2022-23 fiscal year.

That compares to the bureau’s $230 million budget for the current fiscal year that runs through the end of June.

Police are seeking $16.9 million in ongoing funding to increase their 882 authorized sworn officer positions by 67 and add 33 public safety specialists who respond to lower-level non-emergency calls.

But budget analysts recommend that the city council instead set aside $2.6 million in one-time general funds to expedite the hiring of 30 officers to fill vacancies.

“Current projections indicate that additional continued funding in fiscal year 2022-23 without significantly increasing hiring rates would not successfully increase the number of officer patrols in the near term,” the report said. ‘to analyse.

“Accelerated and increased hiring of officers is the most significant way to impact officer patrol levels over the next two years.”

Analysts also recommended returning to the general fund the $448,000 the board approved in November to rehire 25 retired officers this year, due to lack of uptake.

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Rehired retirees were expected to work until the bureau could hire and train new officers, but none signed up.

Given the lack of interest, analysts advised city councilors not to approve the office’s request for another $1.6 million to support the rehire-retire program in the next fiscal year.

The number of sworn police positions filled in the office – 810 out of an authorized strength of 882 – is about 9% below the office’s five-year average, according to the budget office’s report. (The number of positions filled changes frequently. As of Monday, it was 780 sworn members, including 525 at officer rank.)

40 other sworn members of the board are eligible for retirement in July.

Vacancies continued to contribute to slow response times to service calls, according to the report. Fewer officers were available to respond to a record 92 homicides, 1,288 shootings and 63 traffic deaths.

Service calls increased for several years before leveling off at around 260,000 per year from 2018 to 2020. Last year, calls dropped from around 10,000 to 250,914.

Still, it took officers an average of 12 minutes to respond to high-priority emergency calls last year, 4 minutes less than the average response time of 8.2 minutes in 2020, according to the Budget Office.

A city council business meeting is scheduled for Wednesday at 2 p.m. to discuss the police bureau’s budget request and those of other public safety bureaus.

The police bureau is still working to rebuild its recruitment program.

It cut the number of background investigators who check candidates’ personal backgrounds from 18 to 7 in 2020 due to budget cuts. He also lost his three-member recruiting team around the same time when the lead recruiter quit and the other two were placed on patrol to fill shifts.

Police hired no officers in the 2020-21 fiscal year, but hired 24 in the current fiscal year, about three per month between July and Feb. 28.

The office received one-time funding in the fall to support two term-limited positions in the city’s Office of Human Resources to help police recruit sworn officers and civilian police personnel. One position has been filled on a part-time basis and the other remains open.

Two officers are also currently assigned to full-time recruitment, attending job fairs and other events, according to the Budget Office.

sergeant. Trevor Tyler, who was born and raised in Portland and was assigned to the office’s personnel division in September, said he’s looking forward to helping the office get back to full staff.

“It’s not the easiest time to enter this profession, but it could be one of the most important times,” Chief Chuck Lovell said in a recent police bureau podcast. He said he is looking for recruits who want to be part of an evolving police service and who are committed to serving the community.

The bureau requested $418,668 for six administrative specialists to serve as civilian background investigators to initiate the hiring process.

The office must also recruit a diverse pool of officers, budget analysts said, noting that women and people of color made up 18% of sworn officers in the 2020-21 fiscal year, up from 44% the previous year. .

The nationwide law enforcement profession has struggled to find candidates. Portland’s new four-year contract with the police union includes a $5,000 signing bonus and other incentives to attract and retain officers.

The police bureau must also plan for attrition due to early retirements, analysts said.

The next four months will likely see more retirements than usual due to the 27-day pay periods that help boost pension calculations: in July, December 2023, June 2024 and November 2024.

From June 2024, 22% of the office’s current sworn staff will be eligible for retirement, the budget office said.

“While vacancy savings resulting from severances can be used to fund overtime through staff reductions, this is not a financially or operationally sustainable strategy for the officers doing the work,” the analysis says. budgetary.

The bureau is also seeking $3.4 million for 33 other public safety specialists, the unarmed employees who handle low-level business to free up patrol officers to respond to emergencies.

They assist with traffic accidents without injury, attend community events, assist with perimeter traffic at a crime scene, and follow up on property crimes over the phone or in person if necessary. There is no immediate information on the suspect.

Currently, 20 of the 34 certified specialist positions are filled. Vacancies are frozen until an external job evaluation has been completed.

The office is asking to increase the total to 67, but the budget office has recommended that the request be suspended pending the results of the study.

Also in the budget is a request for $694,603 in ongoing funding for six full-time positions to administer records requests and provide technology support for a future body-worn camera program.

The city recently awarded the Bureau of Police $2.6 million to solicit competitive bids for a pilot program.

The body camera program is expected to cost $7.6 million over the next three years, but could be offset by a $1.3 million federal grant. Three-year estimate includes one-time and ongoing costs for hardware, technical support, and staff

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