Over the last twenty years, the City of Portland has grown by over 20% and greater Portland is the 14th fastest-growing metro area in the United States. The face of our City has changed dramatically and the needs of our communities have evolved, yet our public safety infrastructure is stagnant.
The authorized staffing level for the Portland Police Bureau has seen a 9% decrease while the city population has experienced consistent growth.
Crime statistics are massaged and categorized to show that crime is down, but a drive through Portland on any given day confirms the overt livability issues, homelessness crisis, and opioid epidemic. From the West Hills to South Waterfront, the Pearl District and out to East County, inadequate police staffing has an obvious impact on our ability to protect and serve effectively.
Exceptional policing takes time; to connect citizens with the services they need and to build relationships and community trust. The practical impact of a burgeoning population is more calls for service but having fewer officers significantly impacts the time available for proactive work, self-initiated activity, and community engagement.
We should have enough police officers to meet our community’s public safety priorities: to respond to calls for service, investigate and solve crimes, address the deadly upswing in gun and gang violence, serve those impacted by issues surrounding homelessness, assist citizens with mental illness and those suffering mental health crises, engage with our communities, practice proactive policing, and ensure the safety of our citizens and our officers.
The rank and file of the Portland Police Bureau do an outstanding job despite consistently working below minimum staffing levels, but we are at a tipping point; the safety of our communities and our officers is at stake.
The Portland Police Bureau leadership will be requesting that City Hall over hire dozens of officers with one-time funds granted by a vote of City Council. This is a only a short-term, temporary fix for a systemic problem. Portland deserves a long-term solution; an increase in the Portland Police Bureau’s authorized staffing proportionate to the growth and needs of our community.
Daryl Turner, President
Portland Police Association