GRESHAM, Ore. — The Gresham Police Department has decided to pause its school resource officer (SRO) program due to "significant staffing shortages," the City of Gresham said in a news release Tuesday.
SROs working in the Centennial, Gresham-Barlow and Reynolds school districts will be reassigned to patrol positions as the department works to hire more officers. Police said they're currently down 19 officers.
"While this was a very difficult decision because we understand the value of our school resource officers to the community, it is what’s necessary at this time to increase our ability to respond to emergencies,” said Gresham Police Chief Travis Gullberg. “Knowing it takes upwards of 18 months to onboard a new officer, we need to be realistic about our ability to fulfill our contracts with our school partners."
Chief Gullberg said that recruiting and retaining officers is a top priority, and he is hopeful that the SRO program will return as soon as staffing allows.
Meanwhile, the city said it's planning to contract community-based organizations (CBOs) for outreach, intervention and youth violence prevention through its new Youth Services division.
"While our Youth Services team can’t offer security services, they are already working with our school district partners to help provide outreach services for students," the city said.
The city said it plans to utilize CBOs to explore creative strategies that focus on violence prevention in local districts that are interested in the new program.
The City of Gresham has received $25.2 million in American Rescue Plan Act funds that came out of the pandemic. More than $5 million of it has been invested into the police department for things like hiring bonuses and training, the city said.
With part of that funding, the city said the police department will hire an officer recruiter, offer referral bonuses and work with the state to try to reduce "onboarding barriers" for hiring new officers.
In August, Gresham City Council will consider adopting a three-year city financial plan that includes an additional $6 million investment into the police department.