PORTLAND, Ore. — The Portland Police Bureau is finally beginning to get ahead of a years-long drain on staffing, the agency said in a statement on Thursday, with recent hiring efforts bringing the agency up to 537 police officers.
At a swearing-in ceremony Thursday morning, PPB welcomed 20 new officers, which the agency called its "first measurable staffing increase in years."
Prior to Thursday, the agency had 773 sworn members of all ranks, 517 of them officers. The new wave of hires brought PPB up to 793 sworn members and 537 officers.
"Going forward, PPB expects that it will be hiring more than it is losing to attrition," the agency said.
According to PPB, 773 marked the lowest number of sworn members since 1989. The lowest number of police officers came in May of this year when the agency had 509 officers out of 609 authorized.
"This is truly a great day for the Portland Police Bureau," said PPB Chief Chuck Lovell. "It's a challenging time right now to work in law enforcement and I'm gratified to see so many people stepping forward to take on that challenge. I'm excited to welcome them into the PPB family."
Mayor Ted Wheeler — police commissioner under Portland's form of government — and city commissioners Mingus Mapps, Carmen Rubio and Dan Ryan spoke at the ceremony Thursday.
"Numbers like this, particularly in the field of law enforcement, have been hard to come by recently," said Wheeler. "I truly believe that this group, and the growing numbers of people who want to serve the community as police officers, heralds a new and hopeful chapter in our city's future."
The new hires do not yet represent a demonstrable increase to PPB's staffing levels. Recruits will still need to attend basic training in Salem, an "advanced academy" back in Portland, followed by field training with a coach — a process that takes about 18 months to complete. Right now PPB has 87 officers somewhere in the training process.
Moreover, the share of unfilled positions at PPB is actually less remarkable among sworn police officers than it is for public safety support specialists; a contingent of non-sworn, unarmed staff in uniform primarily tasked with responding and taking reports of property crime. After hiring three new support specialists on Thursday, PPB has just 23 of an authorized 70.
PPB said it also added five non-sworn professional staff on Thursday, including several records specialists, a victim advocate and a police desk clerk.
Officers with PPB earn between $75,000 and $107,000 per year, "plus pay incentives," and benefits packages that are 95% paid by the city. The agency said that it's still working to make lateral hires as well as attracting entry-level officers.