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Three community service officers and four police officers were officially sworn in this summer.

COURTESY PHOTO: TOM HAMANN - Four new police officers are sworn in.The Lake Oswego Police Department recently welcomed seven new officers to the department, with vacancies filled for four police officers and three community service officers.

DeLante Moxley, Cody Swartz — who was a former community service officer for LOPD — Cecelia Gump and Adryan Allen were officially sworn in last month as police officers. while Aubrey Davis, Kellen Mathisen and Eryn Berry were sworn in as community service officers.

Community service officers act in a support role and are tasked with duties like code enforcement, prisoner transport and animal control.

"We're happy to find good candidates. It's hard to do these days for sure," said LOPD Sgt. Tom Hamann. "These (people) all come in with a great attitude and good background. They're all eager to get started."

During last May's budget committee meeting, Chief Dale Jorgensen expressed the need to hire additional officers. These additional officers would require a $1.6 million increase in LOPD's budget.

One of the Lake Oswego City Council's primary goals for 2021 was to complete a community engagement process around policing that began last year amid widespread social unrest. At the time of Jorgensen's request for new hires, the city was still in the midst of gathering feedback and creating a set of recommendations to move forward — a process that won't be complete until later this year. With that in mind, it was determined that it was too early to make any significant decisions about staffing at LOPD.

However, with the city's budgeting process running on a separate — and faster — timetable, the committee was compelled to address the proposal in some way and ultimately voted unanimously to allocate the funds requested for the new officers with a caveat that the police chief could not hire anyone before the community police dialogue was completed. That directive was later approved by the City Council when it voted to approve the 2021-23 budget in June.

The recent hires are to fill existing positions, and thus don't fall under this directive. COURTESY PHOTO: TOM HAMANN - Three new community service officers are sworn in.

"We're looking to hire more people because we haven't increased our FTE (full-time employees) in 30 years and over those 30 years, our call loads have increased and the amount of people who live and work in the city has increased," Hamann said. "It's just something that we need to do in order to make sure we have sufficient manpower in order to serve the city appropriately."

The department currently has 43 police officers, and if money is released after the community policing dialogue is finished (the city is hosting a virtual wrap-up event Oct. 20) there is a possibility that number would eventually increase to 47.

There are now five female police officers and four police officers who are people of color.

"It's really important to have diversity in our department and we are certainly happy to have a diverse workforce and to be increasing that," Hamann said. "We've been trying to be a place where people want to come and work and we're happy that in this case, we have some people of color (who) have decided they do want to come and work here."

According to Hamann, part of the challenge with hiring a diverse workforce — and even police officers in general — has to do with society's sentiments toward officers amid the last year-and-a-half of social unrest after police killings of Black people.

"Our applicant pool is just generally a lot less than it has been in the past. Historically, this last year, there are just fewer people that have been applying to be police officers," said Hamann, adding that it's become difficult to find good candidates to be officers, though the department is lucky to have found these seven recent hires. "We're just hopeful they will be successful in all their training."

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