PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN)– The Gresham Police Department recently announced school resource officers won’t return to campuses this coming school year, which is just the latest program the department’s been forced to pause due to a shortage of officers.
It’s a problem no police chief wants, but it’s one law enforcement leaders from coast to coast are facing – a shortage of officers, at a time when crime rates are rising.
Does Gresham PD have a plan to solve this issue? Police Chief Travis Gullberg tells KOIN 6 News all hope is not lost, and that part of the solution is for the department to re-shift focus in some areas.
“This didn’t happen overnight, right? This has been decades in the making and more recent, you know, pressure in the last three to five years,” Gullberg said. “It’s going to take that many years to get back.”
Right now, the Gresham Police Department is short 19 officers. A full force is 129 officers, including command staff.
In the coming months, GPD says they could drop below 100 officers — something that hasn’t happened in two decades.
Gullberg says now more than ever, in order to keep the officers he has, it’s vital to let them know they’re valued.
“I do believe it’s all about relationships and inspiring people to serve,” he said. “You get that stuff figured out you’re gonna be well ahead of everybody else, because trust me, this is a storm that we’re gonna have to weather for a while.”
KOIN 6 has learned there is no one reason why officers are leaving the department.
Some have applied for the Portland Bolice Bureau, which is currently offering $25,000 signing bonuses. Others, seeking a slower pace, have applied at the Multnomah County Sheriff’s Office.
“You can chase the dollar, you can chase better equipment, you can then chase you know, a better environment, so to speak,” Gullberg said. “I think it’s really about, again, being optimistic about the rebuild that we’re gonna have to go through and remaining proud of the work you can do.”
The chief says the department has offered retention bonuses and is working to speed up the hiring process for recruits. GPD is also looking at offering take-home vehicles.
However, Gullberg says that at the end of the day, much of the solution will come down to one thing — appreciation.
“When somebody calls 911, they expect the police officers to show up and help them,” he said. “So, we’re gonna need police officers, right? We have to, at some point, stop saying police officers are bad and start saying, ‘You’re needed.'”