PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) – Former employees of the Portland Police Bureau continue to blame poor leadership by command staff and city leaders as reasons they decided to leave the bureau.
In the latest round of exit interviews, submitted between Sept. 29, 2021, and April 29, 2022, that KOIN 6 News received through a record request submitted to the Portland Police Bureau, six of the eight employees who completed the interview said they were leaving the bureau before they were eligible to retire.
Of the eight, only four listed their job classifications. One was a sergeant, one a criminalist or detective and two were officers.
Despite the frustrations they detail in the interviews, five people who completed the form rated their overall experience of working with the Portland Police Bureau as “good” and one officer said it was excellent.
The officer who said it was excellent had worked for PPB for 5 to 15 years. He said he was leaving the bureau for a new law enforcement opportunity and because of unsatisfactory or negative work experiences.
He rated the overall quality of the policing environment, circumstances, and conditions in which he was working at the Portland Police Bureau as “extremely bad” and said police should not be restricted as much when it comes to pursuing criminals and arresting them.
“Policies that are restrictive do not help citizens or officers,” he wrote in the interview. “Once a criminal is arrested, that person should be held accountable. Portland has no accountability, yet officers are held to a ridiculous standard that only prevents good officers from doing work.”
The officer stressed that he did not leave PPB because he hated the job. He said he left due to family reasons and because he fell out of love with the city, its government and its district attorney.
“I felt worthless and not appreciated,” He said. “I understand that PPB is doing the best with what it has. But I think the system is so messed up that it is going to take more than PPB to change it.”
The criminalist, who had worked at PPB between 16 and 20 years, said he found a new employment opportunity in a different career field and that his decision to leave the bureau was family-related and due to relocation.
He said his coworkers are excellent people who truly want to help the community. He feels the problems spur from the command levels.
“My observations have been that those in command have lost touch with the officers and community,” he wrote. “They become political and swallow the proverbial kool-aid. They are afraid to stand up for what is right.”
This employee also said the Multnomah County District Attorney’s Office, Portland City Council, the local and national media and the general state of the city contributed to his decision to leave.
“DA Mike Schmidt has done more to destroy law and order in Multnomah County than any other single person. His soft-on-crime, pro-criminal, anti-police approach is ruining the city. Officers are afraid they will be indicted for doing their job,” he said.
He said city commissioners have refused to address issues such as homelessness and the rise in crime and gangs.
The sergeant who completed an exit interview said he chose to leave for many reasons, but ultimately it boiled down to his belief that Portland is a toxic environment.
“I believe PPB leadership cares and wants to make a difference for the officers doing the job, but unfortunately they are too limited in their actual ability to do so,” he said. “The City of Portland is disgusting, for all the reasons you are aware of – drugs, transients, suicides, homicides, mental health issues, etc. It is violent and dangerous.”
He blames the city for the “load of crap” PPB has to respond to.
The sergeant said he does not see the light at the end of the tunnel.
He wishes command staff would spend more time with the officers and that more direct conversations should take place when it comes to changes, rather than implementing them through emails.
“Spending time with community stakeholders is important, but many officers don’t feel they are included,” he said.
The sergeant said he was separating from PPB because of unsatisfactory or negative work experiences and is pursuing a new law enforcement opportunity.
In the exit interviews, three people identified their race as white, one preferred not to share his race and the others left the question blank.
The criminalist and the two officers who left were men. The others did not share their gender.