PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — There are more than 100 current openings for Portland police officers and city officials, including Mayor Ted Wheeler, expect that number will climb.
But more recruits are failing to make the grade. Police leaders said up to 25% of new recruits in recent years failed to make it through the Oregon State Police Training Academy or the 18-month probation period.
Some leaders said one big problem is that doing the job of a police officer is a lot different than what many thought it was before they signed up — especially in one area.
“The biggest reason is multi-tasking,” said Portland Police Union President Daryl Turner. “You have to be able to accomplish several tasks when on a call, when you’re doing your job every day out there on the streets on patrol. And some people come into it and think it’s like it is on television and it really isn’t.”
Being unable to perform well under stress is another issue.
“You’re driving, you’re listening to the radio, also getting information from computer screens, paying attention to what you’re doing, looking for the people you are going to call on while you are driving,” Turner said.
Recruits are closely watched and spend 15 months with a training officer while going through state and local police academy instruction.
The City of Portland funded more than 50 new officers this fiscal year, but less than half have been hired. Overtime shifts have filled in some of the gaps.
Starting pay is $60,000 per year, and with benefits included the compensation is close to $100,000.
Wheeler said recruiters “are reaching out to communities of color, recent immigrants, women” to fill some openings.
But the police union said there is concern relations between the bureau and City Council may discourage some applicants.
Wheeler said accountability and transparency are critical, but he pledged his support to the police bureau.
“I want our men and women in uniform to know this: I strongly support and respect them,” the mayor said. “The work they do a lot of people in this community wouldn’t want to do and, as I found out, couldn’t do it.”