PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — As crime goes up, Portland Police staffing is going down.
Lt. Greg Pashley said the bureau has 808 sworn members currently. Their authorized staffing is 916.
“People are leaving in pretty big numbers still. I think we had 9 people resign in July,” Pashley told KOIN 6.
“For those people who are experiencing increase in crime, slower police response, maybe sometimes they feel like they’re not getting the response – we understand and agree that you’re not getting the response. It’s not the response you want. It’s the response we want to offer. We’re in a position right now in this city where this is going to the be the norm for a while and it could get worse based on the projections of people leaving,” he said.
The Bureau said few of their officers are applying for the new Focused Intervention Team which would work to prevent shootings in Portland. They blame the extremely specialized work as part of the reason – but also point to City Council’s decision to get rid of the Gun Violence Reduction Team last year.
“Also, there could be people who, as they were considering if they wanted to do this particular assignment, they might have looked back in recent history and seen their predecessors, last summer, the summer of 2020 be eliminated from very similar work.”
Lt. Pashley said the chief has the power to assign FIT positions if they don’t get volunteers but that would be unusual for a specialized team. The lack of interest in applying for FIT comes on the heels of the June resignation of the entire team assigned to responding to riots.
In a memo KOIN obtained through a public records request, team members said that decision was in part due to a “lack of leadership” from City Hall, The District Attorney’s Office, and local political leaders.
Portland Police Associated Executive Director Daryl Turner said morale is the lowest it’s been at the bureau.
“I think part of the solution is, our elected officials need to show support. The ways they show support —funding the police department, fully funding us number one. Fully staffing us, number two,” Turner said.
Commissioner Mingus Mapps said he understands the reluctance to volunteer.
“The Portland Police Bureau’s Focused Intervention Team is taking shape, albeit slower than we had hoped. The goal of FIT is to deescalate tensions in the community that is feeding the contagious gun violence crisis. FIT operates under a Community Oversight Group, which began meeting in June 2021. As has been widely reported, there has been a lack of volunteers to fill out the team. This is important but dangerous work, so I understand the reluctance. I will tell you this, every officer who volunteers to stem the tide of gun violence in our city is a hero,” Mapps said in a statement to KOIN 6.