Despite cuts, no sworn officers laid off by Portland police
Despite budget cuts from city commissioners and the novel coronavirus, no one carrying a badge and a gun has been laid off from the Portland Police Bureau.
In fact, the bureau has room to grow.
The bureau has 882 sworn officers and another 259 professional staff on the ranks, according to a Tuesday, Sept. 8, announcement, which is well shy of the 917 sworn members and 295 unsworn staff authorized by the shrunken fiscal year 2021 adopted budget of $229.3 million.
Only sworn officers can carry a firearm or make arrests, while unsworn staff perform all manner of back-of-the-house functions.
Bureau officials say eight unsworn staff were laid off this year to help "meet the bureau's budget goals." City Hall previously cut $15 million from the police spending plan, on top of another $12 million gobbled up by pandemic-triggered revenue shortfalls.
"It is unfortunate that anyone needed to be laid off," said a spokesman, officer Derek Carmon. "(We) pray to see no more, sworn or non-sworn."
But of those 882 officers, police say there are only 300 beat cops actually responding to 911 calls, divided among three precincts and seven days of round-the-clock service. A graphic created by PPB shows no more than 19 officers and sometimes as few as 12 officers per precinct who are available for calls for service at various hours of the day.
"There are those who will ask why we are putting this information out so criminals will know how short staffed we are," said deputy police chief Chris Davis. "Our answer is: They already know."
In a detailed, six-minute long video explaining the game of subtraction, the bureau notes that roughly 250 officers are either a rung on the chain of command — such as desk sergeants, lieutenants, captains, commanders or chiefs — or working as a forensic criminalist or detective.
Another large contingent is the 47 officers assigned to the Rapid Response Team that suits up in riot gear for each night's demonstrations.
Of the remainder: 27 are assigned to the Traffic Division; 25 are trainers; 10 are administrators or internal affairs workers; seven work in the desk-bound Telephone Reporting Unit; 64 perform investigative follow-up duties; 11 are on leave or injured; and 13 are assigned to the Behavioral Health Unit or community engagement duties mandated by PPB's settlement with the U.S. Department of Justice.
There are also roughly 100 who haven't completed the two-year training regimen, and therefore can only be dispatched with a partner. Presumably, somewhere within that tally is the three officers placed on administrative duty by Mayor Ted Wheeler for using troubling levels of force while arresting protesters, according to OPB.
The city's adopted budget eliminated 84 sworn positions and four unsworn jobs, but the bureau was already rife with vacant positions, and has seen 49 retirements and nine other "separations" this year alone.
"There's a call to re-envision public safety and review calls where sending an officer may not be the most appropriate choice," said Davis. "We believe those changes can help the city, however, it takes time and funding for this to occur."
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