Wheeler to request millions to improve public safety
In an effort to bolster the severely understaffed Portland Police Bureau, Mayor Ted Wheeler is proposing to spend $3.9 million to triple the number of unarmed public safety specialists.
Public safety specialists — also called PS3s — are unarmed bureau employees. They take on low-priority calls like filing police reports for stolen vehicles.
The request will be included in the budget Wheeler is expected to propose Tuesday for the fiscal year that begins July 1. Other public safety-related requests include:
• $8.5 million to expand the nonpolice Portland Street Response program to around-the-clock citywide coverage.
• $1.8 million to provide park ranger coverage from 6:30 a.m. to 12:30 a.m. seven days a week, plus one team working an overnight shift until 5 a.m.
• $1.8 million to expand the city's 311 call center to 24 hours, seven days a week
• $1 million to cover five new emergency dispatchers for two fiscal years.
The increases will be proposed as several recent polls show crime is a top concern of Portlanders, along with homelessness.
The bureau currently has 20 PS3s on its roster, with two being hired right now and funding allocated for 12 more in the future.
The bureau says this will help improve response times for sworn officers to respond to higher priority 911 emergencies like active shootings and homicides.
Portland Police Association President Aaron Schmautz said the public safety specialists can be hired, trained and hitting the streets much faster than their armed counterparts.
"They can show up to calls that you might not need an armed police officer at that moment, but that an investigation still needs to be carried out," Schmautz said. "We still need to make sure that we have investigators available. So we're excited to have more of all the different things we need. We want to make sure that we're also still hiring police officers."
The bureau said there is a tangible interest in working as a public safety specialist as it has had 89 candidates apply for the current openings.
The $3.9 million price tag would pay for 28 more public safety specialists, a handful of their supervisors and administrators and their work vehicles. This would bring the total number of PS3s to 62 for the next fiscal year.
KOIN 6 News is a news partner of the Portland Tribune. Reporter Jim Redden contributed to this story.
You count on us to stay informed and we depend on you to fund our efforts. Quality local journalism takes time and money. Please support us to protect the future of community journalism.