PORTLAND, Ore. — Amid staffing challenges, the Portland Police Bureau (PPB) is ramping up efforts to hire more officers.
In a press conference Wednesday, Chief Chuck Lovell said the bureau is investing in recruitment efforts to bring in the city's next generation of officers.
PPB is down to a historic low of about 780 sworn officers. Last week, Mayor Ted Wheeler said his plan to address staffing issues by rehiring retired officers did not work.
The number of people leaving PPB is outpacing hiring efforts, Lovell said, and another wave of retirements is expected in July. He said funding is one of several factors that has made hiring difficult.
When PPB took a budget cut in 2020 amid calls to defund police, he said the bureau laid off seven of its background investigators, whose jobs were to vet new job applicants. Additionally, for officers in training, COVID restrictions slowed down the process, Lovell added.
Sgt. Trevor Tyler joined the chief in hosting Wednesday's press conference. He said PPB hired eight new background investigators just last week, and resources will also be poured into attracting new hires.
He said background investigators are currently working through about 300 applications from people looking to work at PPB.
Lovell said he urges anyone from officers in other cities to inexperienced people with a passion for public service to consider joining the force.
"This moment in time is critical for the city and the profession. We're on the cusp of a lot of change in law enforcement, and I think this is a time where someone can come in and be a part of that change on the front end," Lovell told reporters. "Portland does have its challenges, but I think Portland's a city where people have had, for a long time, just the ability to live, work and recreate in a really beautiful environment and a relatively safe city."
The chief said his long-term vision is to have a team of officers who connect with the community, who are familiar with local businesses and who work together with the public to solve problems.
"And in order to do that, we're going to have to have enough staff to build that out," he said.
PPB's staffing shortage comes at a time of unprecedented gun violence for Portland. There have been at least 22 homicides in the city since the beginning of 2022, most of which were committed with a firearm.
The police bureau has launched a new website focused on its effort to recruit more officers.