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New hires of Portland Police Bureau say they're not fazed by city's issues

As of late November the Portland police had 793 sworn members. There are now 89 new members hired and awaiting the training process.

PORTLAND, Ore. — The records division at the Portland Police Bureau is where California transplant Amy Neidiffer took a job in February 2022. She was beyond excited to be putting her criminal justice degree to good use — but almost immediately, Neidiffer got an itch.

"Reading the reports and seeing how much our officers do to help our community and connect them to resources and be there for them, it changed my perspective on officers and that really pushed me to be like, 'I want to go out there and help, too,'" Neidiffer said.

In April, the 25-year-old applied to be an officer. She was hired and sworn-in in August. In December, she will begin months of training. Then she will hit the same Portland streets that she knows have seen a rise in certain types of crime.

"I think for me, being here when it's tough — when we're having a tough time and trying to help them and help the community get out of that, be a part of that healing process — is so fulfilling," Neidiffer said.

Echoing that sentiment is Trey Jackson, who joined the police bureau at the young age of 21. Jackson said he applied last December and was hired and sworn-in in July. Jackson said he might not have chosen this career if not for the school resource officer at his elementary school.

"He used to show me his car, gave me stickers every day," Jackson said. "He's a really good guy and when I turned 15 he told me to think about the cadet program because he knew I always wanted to be a police officer."

Jackson and Neidiffer are two of the 89 new officers currently somewhere in the training process to join a bureau in the midst of a staffing crisis. 

As of Nov. 29, the Bureau had less than 800 sworn members. That is down considerably from the more than 1,000 sworn members back in 2019.

"We desperately want to have more police officers," Sgt. Trevor Tyler said.

Tyler, who spent a year and a half in the Bureau's personnel division, said hiring officers is no easy task. In fact, in 2021, 675 people applied to be a police officer in Portland. Only 27 people were hired. Sgt. Tyler said a lack of background checkers is one explanation, but he adds that some applicants may be disqualified because of recent marijuana use or a poor driving record.

"You can't be a driver if you've had three moving violations in three years per our city insurance policy," Tyler said. "We don't want high-risk drivers because it's a big part of our job."

Still, Tyler said that the Bureau is working its way out of the staffing crisis. For proof, all you have to do is look at the recent hires.

"Nowadays the city isn't as clean or safe as it used to be and I think it'll take a group of professional, tough-minded individuals to take it back and make it a better place," Jackson said.

"I understand some people have left because it's a tough time, and there's no secret to that, but the people who are here, they love their jobs," Neidiffer added. "That's the most amazing and incredible thing about this bureau."

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