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Portland City Council greenlights $25K hiring bonuses for lateral police officers

The council authorized $500,000 to fund the lateral bonuses as well as smaller hiring bonuses for new unarmed community safety specialists.

PORTLAND, Ore. — The Portland City Council voted Wednesday to authorize $500,000 in funding for the city’s police bureau to offer $25,000 hiring bonuses for lateral officers and $3,000 to $5,000 hiring bonuses for new Public Safety Support Specialists (PS3s) in an effort to boost the bureau’s hiring rate.

Addressing the council, Portland Police Captain Anthony Passadore described the bonuses as necessary to bring Portland in line with what other jurisdictions are offering in the highly competitive hiring market for police staff.

Portland has been struggling to fill PPB positions amid record-low staffing levels, and the bureau’s contract with the Portland Police Association currently only covers incentive offers for new officers. 

The bureau will begin negotiating with the union to amend the contract to include lateral and PS3 bonuses. The bureau currently has 107 sworn officer vacancies, according to officials at the council meeting.

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Lateral officers are new hires who are already certified and have prior work experience in other police departments, as opposed to newly sworn officers who begin their careers at PPB. PS3s are unarmed public safety staff who are not sworn officers but can perform non-emergency work such as responding to non-injury traffic accidents or minor theft incidents without suspect information.

“With lateral police officers, we do not have to send those police officers to the DPSST (Department of Public Safety Standards and Training) Academy, which roughly saves us about $16,000,” Passadore said. “Also they process through the field training program much quicker.”

The bonuses are contingent on lateral hires passing the hiring process, clearing background checks and being offered the job. They’re also intended to incentivize retention, Passadore said. Lateral officers will have to pay back all of the money if they leave in the first year after being hired, $20,000 if they leave in the second year, $15,000 in the third year, and so on up through five years.

RELATED: Portland mayor and officials discuss strategies, staffing challenges amid wave of gun violence

PS3s would get a $1,500 bonus upon being sworn in, $1,500 at the end of their probationary period and a final $2,000 bonus after three years of service, he said. The additional of PS3 bonuses will put the program “on par” with new officers in terms of the bureau’s ability to recruit staff, Passadore said.

The new $25,000 bonuses for lateral officers would allow Portland to stay competitive with many other nearby agencies such as the Vancouver Police Department, Passadore said, although he added that on the national level some agencies have been making even higher bonus offers.

Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler described the bonuses as one of three strategies to ease the bureau’s staffing pressure, the other two being a retire-rehire program and various improvements to take pressure off of existing officers such as the PS3 program and upgrades to the 911 dispatch system.

Passadore also discussed the bureau’s recruitment efforts. He said the department has been sending recruiters to local events in Portland as well as Pacific Northwest colleges and universities, and has also been seeking out military servicemembers to potentially recruit.

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