PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) – The Gresham Police Department announced Tuesday that it will pause its school resource officer program amid ongoing, significant staff shortages. 

School resource officers had been operating in the Centennial, Gresham-Barlow and Reynolds school districts. 

The city of Gresham said the police department is working to fill 19 vacant sworn officer positions. To help alleviate the staff shortage, the police department will re-assign its school resource officers to patrol positions. 

“While this was a very difficult decision because we understand the value of our school resource officers to the community, it is what’s necessary at this time to increase our ability to respond to emergencies,” Police Chief Travis Gullberg said. 

He said it takes about 18 months to onboard a new officer and the police force will need to be realistic about its ability to fulfill its contracts with its school partners. 

“Recruiting and retaining officers is a top priority, and we hope to announce the return of the SRO program as soon as staffing allows,” Gullberg said. 

The City of Gresham’s Youth Services Division contracts with culturally competent community based organizations for outreach, intervention and youth violence prevention efforts. The city said that while the Youth Services team can’t offer security services, it will continue to partner with school districts to provide outreach services for students. 

The city said it will work with districts that are interested and with community based organizations to come up with strategies to prevent violence. 

The Gresham City Council invested $5.2 million of American Rescue Plan Act funds into the police department to provide hiring bonuses, training, to help the department to add non-sworn staff, and to launch a pilot Community Service Specialist program to handle non-emergency calls. 

The city is also working with the state to try to reduce some of the onboarding barriers faced when hiring new officers. 

In August, city council will consider adopting a three-year financial plan that would include an additional $6 million investment in the police department. 

After the announcement from Gresham police, the Gresham-Barlow School District released a statement about the pause of the program.

“The Gresham-Barlow School District is disappointed to hear that the Gresham Police Department (GPD) will be pausing the school resource officer (SRO) program in the three school districts it serves. We understand the challenges the police department is facing and their need to re-deploy SROs to patrol positions. The SRO program is critically important to our schools and an essential part of our school safety equation. We are contacting other law enforcement agencies to determine if there are other options available to us during this time. We will provide an update on this work prior to the start of school.”