Portland police just swore in 16 new officers, the biggest classes in 20 years, and it’s looking for more.
Chief recruited Sgt. Trevor Tyler said even though the city plans to fill 300 positions within the next three years, it’s still a very selective process, with only about 10 percent passing the screening process.
That process starts with two things, a desire to serve and high morals, he said.
“I can train hard skills, but I cannot change attitude or ethics,” he said. “They must have a high caliber of integrity and a heart for service. It’s the biggest class of recruits in two decades and I’m very thankful we were able to pull that off.”
The Portland Police Bureau is considering recruits from three areas, brand new officers, lateral hires who have three years of experience, and support staff. All of the new hires are new officers, he said.
More than 100 people applied for the 16 positions and with just under 800 on staff now, the police bureau is looking to fill a total of 200 police officers and 100 support staff.
Training for the new recruits is intense and lengthy, he said, with the first 16 weeks spent in training at the Basic Academy in Salem, followed by 12 weeks at the Advanced Academy, where, according to the PPB website, where they develop higher levels of skill and confidence in communication, application of the law, decision-making, and tactics. Next they go through 18 months of field training and evaluation for on-the-job training.
Part of their training deals with working with Blacks and other minorities through presentations, videos, group discussions, self-awareness exercises and practical exercises in real world or workplace scenarios, according to the city’s website. A typical session includes an overview of equity, definitions of systemic and institutional racism
New recruits work a minimum of 24 weeks with a coach in the police car, who serves as a mentor on the recruits shift and two to four days of training in alternatives to incarceration for youth.
Minimum qualifications for new officers are that they be 20.5 years old, have a high school diploma or a GED. Starting wage is $75,670, which Tyler said is the highest pay in the Pacific Northwest.
“When you think about all other factors such as cost of living, there is nobody that’s more competitive,” he said.
In Beverly Hills, he said, new officers start at $98,000 a year, but they have to drive an hour or more to get work to work because they can’t afford to live in that expensive community.
That’s not the case in Portland, he said.
“We have officers that can afford to live here and buy homes and it’s the most cost effective place,” he said. “Vancouver pays less and they are competitive, but we pay more.”
Lateral officers with a state certification recognized by Oregon do not have to attend the Basic Academy, according to the PPB website, but they will need to attend a two-week Career Officer Development class and the Advanced Academy for 10 weeks They will also go through a 12-month probation and training program.
The recent new recruits will receive a $1,000 bonus after being sworn in, another $1,000 at the end of their probation period and a final $3,000 after completing three years of service. The wage for lateral hires ranges from $87,753 and can go up to $107,736.
According to a recent story by KGW-TV, the Portland City Council voted on June 29th to authorize $500,000 in funding for the police bureau to offer $25,000 in hiring bonuses for lateral offices and from $3,000 to $5,000 for new support staff.
Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler has described the bonuses as one of the strategies to ease the bureau’s staffing pressures, as well as a retire-rehire program and other improvement to ease the pressure off of existing officers, such as the PS3 support staff program and updates to the 911 dispatch system.
“We’ve had eight retired that came back to serve,” he said. “It’s not a perfect fit for every single person, but others still care a great deal and we are very thankful for them.”
At the same city council meeting, police Capt. Anthony Passadore said the department has been sending recruiters to local hiring events in Portland and to colleges and universities in the Pacific Northwest, as well as to those with military experience.
The new class of recruits is somewhat diverse, with one woman, one Black and several of Hispanic origin, he said, and they come from as far away as the East Coast.
“We have a couple out of California, some from the Seattle and Bremerton areas and several, over half, born and raised in Portland Metro,” he said.