PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — In an effort to bolster the severely understaffed Portland Police Bureau, Mayor Ted Wheeler is proposing to spend $3.9 million to triple the number of unarmed public safety specialists.
Public safety specialists — also called PS3s — are unarmed but they are not sworn officers. They take on low-priority calls like filing police reports for stolen vehicles.
The bureau currently has 20 PS3s on its roster, with two being hired right now and funding allocated for 12 more in the future.
The City says this will help improve response times for sworn officers to respond to higher priority 911 emergencies like active shootings and homicides.
Portland Police Association President Aaron Schmautz says the public safety specialists can be hired, trained and hitting the streets much faster than their armed counterparts.
“They can show up to calls that you might not need an armed police officer at that moment, but that investigation still needs to be carried out,” Schmautz said. “We still need to make sure that we have investigators available. So we’re excited to have more of all the different things we need. We want to make sure that we’re also still hiring police officers.”
The bureau says there is a tangible interest in working as a public safety specialist as it has had 89 candidates apply for the current openings.
The $3.9 million price tag, part of the mayor’s spring budget, would pay for 28 more public safety specialists, a handful of their supervisors and administrators and their work vehicles. This would bring the total number of PS3s to 62 for the next fiscal year.
Wheeler is set to reveal his full budget in early May.