With unwavering resolve, the Portland Police Association pressed for having the staffing and resources to keep our communities safe and in November 2016, our collective bargaining agreement with the City of Portland was ratified by City Council. The new contract established incentives to bolster retention and recruitment as we faced the worst staffing shortage in the history of the Portland Police Bureau.
While some portrayed the new contract as simply a means to a pay increase, others were skeptical and vocal wondering if the incentives went far enough to offer more than a quick fix for a systemic problem.
Less than one year later, retention and recruitment at the Bureau are both thriving. Recruiting is bringing in more candidates than the PPB can process. The retire/rehire program has encouraged 30 PPA members to stay on; their expertise and experience bridging the gap for new officers. Dozens of PPA members have postponed retirement because they now have a wage and benefit package that begins to address the growing responsibilities of the job.
The truth is that the catastrophic staffing crisis required short term remedies, implemented quickly and it now requires the stretch towards long term, sustainable solutions.
The PPA contract has fulfilled its obligation to bring more qualified applicants in the door while retaining experienced officers, sergeants, and investigators. But the bigger problem is the authorized staffing level.
Portland deserves the resources and officers to meet public safety priorities: responding to increased calls for service, investigating and solving crimes, addressing the deadly upswing in gun and gang violence, serving those impacted by livability issues surrounding homelessness, assisting citizens with mental illness and those suffering mental health crises, community engagement, and proactive policing … ensuring the safety of our citizens and our officers.
The current population in Portland is estimated at 648,451 and our authorized staffing level is now at 945 sworn employees, while the population of Seattle is estimated at 713,700 but their authorized staffing level is 1,300 … nearly 30,000 more residents and 355 more officers.
Mayor Wheeler and City Council just authorized a 5% incentive to the new Chief and her command staff to live in the city of Portland. It is well worth his most strenuous effort to encourage City Council to over-hire 250 more officers in this budget year and increase the authorized strength of the Portland Police Bureau to 1,200 sworn employees. During his campaign, Mayor Wheeler promised that he would put more police officers into the community to enhance community policing; now is his chance to act on those words.
If the Mayor wants to give Chief Outlaw all the tools she needs to be successful, then he should lead the charge for more officers to meet the evolving needs of the communities we serve. To date, instead, he has cut our authorized strength from 950 to 945 by retiring the mounted patrol positions.
Portlanders and the rank and file deserve better.
Daryl Turner, President
Portland Police Association