Body cams for cops. Hefty bonuses for new hires in the Portland Police Bureau (PPB). A new police training academy in Portland.
These are just a few of the proposals Mayor Ted Wheeler will suggest City Council fund in the city's upcoming budget adjustment talks.
Wheeler highlighted these priorities in a Wednesday press conference, held just 24 hours before City Commissioners will hold their first public meeting on the fall Budget Monitoring Process (or, fall BMP), a time for commissioners to review and make changes to the current fiscal year's budget. This year's process has the opportunity to be particularly influential, as City Council has an estimated $62 million in surplus funds it needs to distribute. It's common for the city to only see around $5 million in excess funds during this fall process.
Because of city policy, Council is only allowed to use half of those surplus dollars on city programs, while the rest is set aside for infrastructure costs. This leaves City Council with about $31 million in one-time funds to spend on city programs. Earlier this week, the city announced it would be reserving nearly $19 million of those dollars for services and programs to address homelessness, as part of a joint investment with Multnomah County.
Wheeler's public safety programs proposed Wednesday would use $7.8 million of the city's general fund dollars.
"I feel like we’re moving at the right pace at the right time with the resources we have available," said Wheeler Wednesday.
Wheeler's proposals focus on expediting the hiring and training process for PPB officers at a time when, according to Wheeler, the police bureau is "critically understaffed." As of last month, PPB had 789 sworn law enforcement members on staff, with 127 vacant positions. Currently 58 new officers are in training and certification, a process that can take up to two years to complete. PPB has struggled to recruit and retain officers in recent years, forcing the city to lower some of its hiring standards to attract more applicants.
In hopes of attracting new hires, Wheeler has proposed introducing $25,000 signing bonuses for the first 50 qualified applicants to PPB.
"Younger generations are seeking meaningful employment," said Wheeler. "Portland is primed to provide that meaning. We're looking for a new wave of officers who are looking for community engaged policing. We need to incentivize those entering the workforce."
Wheeler hopes to fill the vacant PPB positions and then expand the department's staff by 300 over the course of the next three years. He also supports a program that would hire back 50 previously retired PPB officers over the next two years—a move that would remove the months-long certification process for new hires. He also suggested opening a training academy for new hires in Portland in addition to the sole Salem-based academy for all Oregon members of law enforcement.
Many of Wheeler's proposals that he categorized as "reforms" are recommendations made by the US Department of Justice (DOJ), which is in a settlement agreement with the city to improve PPB's trend of using disproportionate force against people with a mental illness. Those programs include investing in a body-worn camera program for all PPB officers, hiring a "Dean of Training" to use research to guide PPB's training system, and conducting an "independent assessment" of PPB's crowd control procedures. Wheeler noted that accountability is a key piece to his proposed expansion to PPB.
"[PPB] Chief Lovell and his colleagues know it's a new day in law enforcement, and that requires deeper transparency and accountability," Wheeler said. "But they also need the resources to provide the needed infrastructure."
Wheeler said he has the support of enough City Council members to pass his public safety proposals in a 3-2 vote.
Here's a breakdown of his proposed budget items:
$400,000 to rehire formally retired PPB officers
$448,257 to hire 40 more Public Safety Support Specialists (or, PS3s), unarmed PPB staff who respond to low-level 911 calls
$100,000 to recruit new PPB officers
$120,000 to expand PPB's staff that runs background investigations on new hires
$100,000 to outsource some of that background investigation work
$856,000 to create a basic training academy in Portland
$2,806,178 to buy and maintain technology for body worn cameras and to hire a Dean of Training
$400,000 to conduct an independent assessment of PPB's crowd control tactics
$300,000 to pay a consultant to review and make recommendations regarding PPB's five-year staffing plan
$100,000 to pay a consultant to help create a "Violence Reduction Plan" for the city
$142,397 to hire two new employees in the city's Community Safety Division who would work with community law enforcement oversight committees
$300,000 to hire two new employees in the city's Community Safety Division responsible for "public safety information"
$225,000 for the Office of Violence Prevention to assist gun violence reduction work
$105,000 for the Office of Violence Prevention to provide support to families impacted by gun violence
$1,081,080 to expand the Portland Street Response citywide by next spring
$350,000 for community outreach regarding Portland Street Response
City Council will discuss these proposals—along with others—during a Thursday afternoon work session. Commissioners are scheduled to vote on where its surplus funds will be spent on November 10.