Wheeler: Police longevity and signing bonuses needed to increase staffing
Mayor Ted Wheeler will ask the City Council to increase police spending by around $7 million to retain existing officers, rehire retired officers, provide body-worn cameras to officers and create new programs to reduce crime.
"This is the deadliest era of modern times for the city of Portland," Wheeler said. "As of 2021, we have surpassed a historical threshold with 72 homicides."
Wheeler said he will make the request during the annual Fall Budget Adjustment Process that is currently underway at City Hall. The council has about $31 million in surplus funds it can spend in the near future. The council will hold a work session on all funding requests on Thursday, Nov. 4. The council will hold a hearing on all requests and could vote on them on Nov. 10.
Among other things, Wheeler said he intended to offer longevity retention bonuses to persuade existing long-term officers to not retire. Wheeler also said he hopes to offer $25,000 signing bonuses to hire 300 more officers over the next three fiscal years, including 200 armed officers and 100 unarmed community safety specialists, or PS3s, that respond to lower-level crimes.
"We are critically short-staffed," Wheeler said about the current staffing level of the Portland Police Bureau.
Wheeler, who described the violence as a result of 2021's economic hardships, gang-related crime, and mental health crises, said it has affected the entire community.
"Many Portlanders no longer feel safe in their city," he said. "Business owners have closed up shop for fear of doing business in high-risk areas. Commuters fear for their safety whether taking public transit or going by foot. Parents are scared to let their children play outside."
As first reported by The Oregonians/OregonLive, he is also expected to request $400,000 to hire back 25 recent police retirees to immediately fill vacancies, $2.6 million to buy body cameras, about $700,000 to help the state offer a regional basic police training academy in Portland with seats for 45 Portland police recruits, $100,000 to cover overtime for police recruiters, $125,000 to hire a civilian dean of police training and $300,000 to hire an outside consultant to review police use of force during the past year's protests.
The council will also discuss increasing funding for homeless services during the Thursday work session. Wheeler and Multnomah County Chair Deborah Kafoury announced a joint plan to increase homeless spending by $38 million on Monday, Nov. 2. Both governments have unexpectedly large surpluses generated by high business license tax collections.
KOIN 6 News is a news partner of the Portland Tribune and contributed to this story.
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