Smoke and Mirrors

At the annual fall “budget monitoring process,” Portland’s City Council declined to fund 85 Portland Police Bureau (PPB) positions – positions strongly advocated for by the Portland Police Association (PPA) and requested by the PPB and Portland community members, business owners, and residents. Instead, City Council authorized funding for 10 over hires from the previous year and 10 over hires for this fiscal year, 2017-2018.

The City Council’s decision is in direct conflict with the growth of the city and the evolving needs of the communities we serve. Do our elected officials live in a glass bubble? Unfortunately, like most politicians, it appears that our Commissioners are insulated from the real world and the struggles our citizens face everyday.

The PPA vigorously asserts that the 85 additional officer request was simply the first step to fix a systemic problem and recommends increasing the authorized staffing level by no less than 100 sworn officers in the next budget year, and 150 sworn officers in the following year bringing the authorized staffing level to 1,200 sworn officers by 2020. Moving forward, authorized staffing proportionate to our city’s growth just makes sense.

Local business leaders, small business owners, and citizens have provided ample testimony at City Council. The problematic livability issues caused by homelessness, sparse mental health services, gang violence, and the opioid epidemic are negatively affecting the quality of life in our city. More and more business owners are concerned for the safety of their employees.

As the President of the Portland Police Association I have consistently stated that the dire, limited staffing level on patrol and across the Bureau prohibits its ability to perform proactive policing and relationship-based community policing, which requires officers have adequate time to work in the community. The inverse relationship between increasing population growth and fewer authorized sworn positions has a direct impact on the time it takes to respond to calls for service, investigate crimes against citizens, and continue to build trust and relationships in the diverse and evolving communities we protect and serve.

City Council has turned a blind eye to the glaring fact that our city is in crisis. Instead of being a growing community where businesses thrive and people want to establish roots and raise their families, we have homeless camps on every corner and our sidewalks are littered with garbage and drug paraphernalia; our citizens do not feel safe.

Both city and county elected officials have scoffed at the idea of creating a social service hub for the homeless at Wapato calling it improbable and inconvenient. Yet, they throw millions of taxpayer dollars and thousands of promises into a dark hole of surveys and studies to “talk” about remedies to the livability issues plaguing our community … and the issues remain. Our leaders are guilty of prioritizing their own agendas over the concerns of citizens. It must stop and Portland deserves better.

Through the adversity, the rank and file of the PPB will continue to protect and serve the citizens of Portland as best they can with dedication, professionalism, and compassion. Meanwhile, politicians with false promises consistently fail to deliver results.

Daryl Turner, President
Portland Police Association