PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — Overtime costs at the Portland Police Bureau have skyrocketed since the pandemic began followed by 90-plus days of ongoing protests. But those aren’t the only reasons the overtime has ballooned, the bureau said.

Staffing shortages, an issue PPB has noted for years, is “one of the drivers for personnel shortages,” officials said. In a press conference Tuesday, Chief Chuck Lovell said “over 50 people will have retired in the month of August and those are veteran officers who are out and able to take calls and do investigations. So we’re a lean agency. So we have to staff our resources as best we can.”

Portland Police Bureau Chief Chuck Lovell, Aug. 25, 2020. (KOIN)

Officially, the numbers show 51 members retired and one resigned. Another 84 positions were eliminated in the 2020-21 fiscal year budget, and about 100 officers “have not been trained or fully trained.”

Training an officer fully can take as long as 18 months, authorities said, even longer now during the pandemic.

The shortages also hamper efforts to fill shifts when someone is sick, on vacation, training or short on minimum staffing requirements. That’s when overtime is used.

And the nightly protests have prompted PPB to adapt staffing to “reduce the amount of overtime incurred.”

The bureau released this information Thursday as an “update” to a City Auditor’s report from October 2019 about police overtime.

“But in Portland recently, the police say that the majority of overtime they work is not due to these kinds of events, and that most overtime is needed just to schedule enough officers for daily patrol because of a staffing shortage,” the auditor’s reports stated. “That reasoning makes so much sense that the Bureau hardly questions that it spent $15.7 million on overtime in Fiscal Year 2017-2018
and that officers worked nearly 250,000 extra hours. The reliance on overtime is costly and poses safety risks to officers and community members.”

The report recommended certain steps, which PPB addressed. One of those is the Police Overtime Hours Dashboard, which tracks overtime on a monthly basis.

A chart showing overtime costs at PPB over time (Released August 27, 2020 PPB)