PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — Portland police are attempting to bolster their numbers after many officers have either retired or quit in the past couple of years.

PPB has told KOIN 6 News that the low staffing has made it harder for them to respond to calls quickly. The bureau recently hired 20 new officers but is still about 100 short of what they need for a city the size of Portland, so it could still be a long road ahead for PPB, who is attempting to deal with the town’s violent crime — data from the bureau shows that the city is roughly on pace with 2021’s record homicide rate.

After PPB hit its lowest number of officers in about 30 years last month, Sergeant Trevor Tyler says just by being sworn in, the new recruits are giving the bureau hope.

“They do go a long way in terms of encouraging the officers that are here, that they are holding on for help. The help is coming,” he said. “I think a big component of tackling the violent crime is the ability to be able to respond in a timely fashion.”

In exit interviews obtained KOIN 6 in 2021, officers referenced feeling a lack of support from elected officials coupled with civil unrest as reasons for quitting. But Tyler says it’s been meaningful to see city officials show support for Portland police.

“I was so thankful last Thursday, we had three commissioners (who) came and spoke at the hiring ceremony. The mayor also had a gracious statement. As a whole, we are seeing there is the backing from our community representatives,” he said.

The hiring announcement came following Mayor Ted Wheeler’s uncharacteristic outburst in a city council meeting where he responded to a presentation from Police Chief Chuck Lovell about rising crime.

“We should stop using the messaging at every turn that the reason we can’t help citizens with basic criminal justice issues is because we don’t have the personnel,” Wheeler said. “We have to find better ways to address this crisis.”

Tyler says the wheels to hire the new officers were in motion far before Mayor Wheeler’s comments and that he is hopeful for the future.

“I want the city to succeed, we all want the city to succeed, which is why we stayed through everything. I feel like we’re seeing glimpses of hope come into fruition now,” he said.