PPB asks city council to approve hiring of 85 officers

45 Portland police officers are due to retire in early 2019

A Portland police officer. (KOIN)

PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — The Portland Police Bureau is asking city council to approve the over-hiring of dozens of officers to ease the blow of an expected mass retirement in 2019.

The mass retirement comes from the hiring booms the bureau went through in the 80s and 90s, hiring in bunches followed by hiring freezes. Now 45 police officers are due to retire in early 2019 — that’s 7% of the 632 active duty officers in the bureau.

“Forty-five police officers leaving over 2 months is significant,” Portland Police Assistant Chief Chris Davis said.

PPB Assistant Chief Chris Davis, July 14, 2017 (KOIN)
PPB Assistant Chief Chris Davis, July 14, 2017 (KOIN)

It takes 18 months to full train and deploy a Portland Police officer, so the bureau wants to act now for tomorrow, before it’s too late.

“What we want to do is be able to hire those people’s replacements today,” Davis said. “If we wait until all 45 of those people leave to hire their replacement, we go 18 months without those 45 people.”

The over-hiring would cost nearly $3 million this year and $7 million going forward. The $3 million, though is contingency funding which if unused for hiring would not go to the bureau at all.

At full strength, the bureau has 945 total sworn members. Some groups say that’s a shortage of 100-400 officers for a city Portland’s size.

“There are people who believe that there’s a specific number,” Davis said. “You need 2 officers per thousand population…that’s not really true.”

But the bureau does admit it’s understaffed, which is why it’s asking city council to approve the over-hiring of 85 police officers on Wednesday.

As the city grows, the demand for police work grows with it. If the staffing doesn’t keep up, neither will the response time to critical 911 calls.

“This is demand for police service and this is not a surprise. More people? More emergencies, more need for police service,” Davis said.

A Portland police officer takes pictures at the scene of an accident (KOIN, file)
A Portland police officer takes pictures at the scene of an accident (KOIN, file)

There are also high-priority calls like armed robberies, stabbings, shots fired, domestic violence, which are all on the rise.

“It’s becoming a problem here,” Davis said. “We’re getting to the point where demand for police service goes up anytime population goes up and we’re already at a point where we are having difficult meeting demand for our service.”

Calls per patrol officers have spiked, up 32.5% since 2013 and that could get worse in 2019 if the bureau doesn’t get the approval to hire those 85 officers now. The city council will vote Wednesday whether to approve the hiring.