PPB Chief: Bureau faces defining moment

Within the next 5 years, 385 PPB members are projected to retire

PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) – To fix mounting problems within the Portland Police Bureau, the chief of police says the city must fill vacancies within the force.

In a statement released Tuesday, Police Chief Michael Marshman wrote that PPB "is facing a staffing crisis with 65 vacancies, and at least 21 more to come this month." Within the next 5 years, 385 members are projected to retire.

Marshman wrote there is a shared expectation by the community and him that officers spend more time building relationships and preventing crime.

"The result is that callers to 911 are waiting longer for a police officer to arrive for emergency calls--sometimes hours for non-emergency crimes," Marshman said.

Read Chief Mike Marshman's Entire Letter

He added that officers often cannot investigate or follow-up on low-level crimes and public safety issues, such as non-injury crashes and cases of thefts with no suspect information.

"Officers go from call to call, and there is less time for community engagement," Marshman said.

According to the chief, the average officer is responding to 35 percent more dispatched calls as compared to 2012.

"…We have overworked officers, and in many cases, our precincts are now unable to find officers to fill the extra shifts that are a result of the large number of current vacancies," the chief said.

Later this month, 20 officers and sergeants from specialty units such as the Gang Enforcement Team, Traffic Division and others will be permanently reassigned to the patrol division and their current roles will go unfilled.

"More cuts to those units are likely in the upcoming months," the chief warned.

Marshman added that the bureau is "actively recruiting officers," but due to a rigorous testing and background process, only 1 out of every 20 candidates is actually hired. Once someone is hired, it then takes 18 months before an officer is fully trained.

"Further complicating matters, the Bureau is competing with nearly every agency in the state and region for qualified candidates," the chief said.

Marshman said collective bargaining agreement between the city and the Portland Police Association "would help" with recruiting efforts.

If the city council approves the tentative agreement with the PPA, the city could re-hire officers who have retired.

"…I've been to more retirement parties than I can count. I watch our well-trained, knowledgeable officers, who have a strong connection to this community, walk out the door and immediately go to work for another police agency," Marshman said.

Marshman also spoke about the bureau's policy when it comes to police-worn body cameras.

"I want to make it clear that the Police Bureau believes body cameras are beneficial and add another layer of legitimacy and transparency. However, there are still many questions related to data retention, expense, public records requests, privacy issues, etc. to be discussed," he said.

The city council is expected to discuss the tentative agreement with PPA later this week. The last two hearings have been interrupted by protestors.

A vote is expected Oct. 12.

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