Mayor Wheeler Requests Funding for 67 New Police Officers – Portland Mercury

While the budget request doesn’t come as a surprise—Wheeler announced last year that he aims to expand the bureau by 300 officers over the next three years—it stands in contrast with PPB’s struggle to fill vacant positions.
As of December, PPB reported that 91 of its 882 officer positions sat vacant. That number has remained relatively constant over the past years, wavering between 128 and 90 vacancies. According to PPB, these vacancies have been due to a combination of officer retirements and the bureau’s slow onboarding process for new hires. New officers must complete training at the state and local levels—a process that can take up to two years—before wearing a badge.
Previous City Hall budgets have attempted to close this vacancy gap. In the 2021 fiscal year budget, which began on July 1, commissioners agreed to steer $5.3 million over the course of two years to support the “accelerated hiring” of 30 patrol officers. During a November 2021 budget adjustment vote, City Council funneled more than $200,000 to expand PPB’s team that runs background checks on new hires, as the process would often become backlogged.
It’s not immediately clear what areas these new proposed officer positions would be assigned to within PPB. Here’s how it’s explained in Wheeler’s budget proposal:
“Given the number of vacancies the bureau currently has to fill and the training time required before a new officer is able to be deployed, it is difficult to prescribe these 67 Police Officer positions to any one task or function, beyond call response, or state specifically what metrics they will impact. That said, the greater the number of officers the bureau has to dispatch to calls for service, there would be expected benefits
of reduced response time for call types.”
Wheeler has also requested adding 33 new non-sworn PPB employees to the bureau in his budget proposal for the upcoming 2022 fiscal year. Those staff would serve as Public Safety Support Specialists (PS3s for short), a relatively new unarmed PPB position meant to respond to low-level crimes and answer calls that could keep sworn cops from responding to crimes.
“Simultaneously expanding the PS3 Program would allow the bureau to consider additional call types PS3s could respond to and allow Police Officers to focus on responding to higher priority calls for service,” the budget proposal reads.
Wheeler and others on city council, including City Commissioner Mingus Mapps, have pointed to PPB’s slow 911 response times and the city’s crime numbers—especially those related to gun violence—as a direct reflection of an understaffed police force. Others on council, like City Commissioner Jo Ann Hardesty, have argued that the annual funding reserved for vacant police positions takes dollars away from other programs that could directly impact these concerns.
One of those programs is the Portland Street Response, a program housed in the city’s Fire Bureau, which is overseen by Hardesty. The burgeoning program, which sends trained medics and behavioral health specialists to 911 calls related to low-level mental health issues and homelessness, is currently limited to a pilot program operating in East Portland. The program plans to expand citywide this March, which is reflected in Hardesty’s budget proposal for the coming year.
Hardesty has asked to make permanent 22 temporary positions within Portland Street Response and to expand the program’s staff by 34 additional workers. In total, this would bring the program to 58 employees.
City Council will begin discussing each bureau’s proposed budgets the first week of March, with a tentative plan to vote on the entire budget in May. The 2022 fiscal budget begins on July 1.


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