PORTLAND, Ore. — To say the men and women of the Portland Police Bureau (PPB) were busy over the weekend would be an understatement. Over a 13-hour stretch from Friday evening to Saturday morning, officers responded to five shootings and three serious crashes.
"Whenever these things are going on, I'm getting phone calls and hearing from the chief and getting updates," said Sgt. Aaron Schmautz, president of the Portland Police Association.
Schmautz is well aware that the heavy call load over the weekend stretched the bureau thin. Officers could only respond to high-priority calls, meaning people calling 911 to report a less serious crime, like a theft or vandalism, did not get a police response.
"You're talking about your everyday Portland citizen who's experiencing an emergency, experiencing something important in their life, and that may be the only time they call the police and that for me is the most heartbreaking thing," Schmautz said.
Unfortunately, Schmautz said it could get worse before it gets better.
KGW has learned of more than 100 vacancies at PPB. That number could jump in July when anywhere between 40 and 60 sworn members of PPB will be eligible to retire.
"The reality is that without enough robust staffing, if you experience a critical emergency it's going to take longer for people to respond. And that's simply unacceptable," Schmautz said.
According to Sgt. Schmautz, PPB has no choice but to lean on community organizations that in the past have offered to help law enforcement.
"I think we need to continue to have honest conversations about what our needs are, where we can best work together," Schmautz added.