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Kenton Waltz

Portland's police union has an explanation for the city's decline in the number of police officers applying to Portland Police Bureau (PPB).

"The reason the Police Bureau is experiencing catastrophic staffing shortages, drastically declining recruiting success, and the inability to retain officers is due to one core issue," writes Daryl Turner, president of the Portland Police Association (PPA) in a Monday press release. "The intense anti-police sentiment in our City that City Council seems to share."

In March, the City Budget Office released data that PPB has 75 open officer positions, despite the bureau's evergreen request for more officer positions. What's more, the city found that 25 percent of PPB officers hired in the last three years quit within 18 months. City economists blamed this problem on PPB's slow hiring process (PPB applicants wait an average of 11 months to be hired after applying for an officer job) and an uptick in officer retirements.

Turner, however, argues that potential officers have stopped applying to work for PPB because policing in Portland has become "hideously unattractive."

"False narratives, knee jerk political reactions, along with personal and political agendas have created a hostile work environment and made it an impossible task to effectively police in the City of Portland," writes Turner.

He backs the concerns raised by PPB Chief Danielle Outlaw in a budget work session with city commissioners last week, where she linked recruitment issues to the national perception of Portland policing.

"Working here in Portland is unique, and it's been recognized all over the country," Outlaw said. "We deal with demonstrations, protests, crowd management things... We catch a lot of headlines. And, quite frankly, folks would rather go to other agencies and make similar or more money for less scrutiny."

Outlaw also said that the extra layers of police oversight that come with a police bureau like Portland's being under a federal settlement agreement doesn't help.

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"For those who aren't organically change agents, there not going to automatically come and do that work," she said.

In the PPA press release, Turner notes that Outlaw's comments "seemed to go right over the Commissioners’ heads." He characterized Mayor Ted Wheeler's work to support the PPB as largely reactionary and self-serving.

"Mayor Wheeler is quick to praise the work done by police officers until controversy stares him in the face," Turner writes. "In recent weeks, he’s acknowledged that failure and promises to be more supportive in the future. It’s imperative that his actions reflect his words. And it’s imperative that the rest of City Council does the same."