Ted Wheeler is the new mayor-elect for the city of Portland after a big win on Tuesday, and while he won't be sworn in as mayor until January 2017, he is ready to take on some important issues.
On Friday, Wheeler called the Portland Police Bureau a broken system, this comes after the Portland Police Association reported morale and staffing levels at an all time low.
Wheeler said he wants to make the bureau a place where officers want to work and believes that could happen in part by moving back to a full community policing model.
Data from the PPB shows that they have 884 people on staff right now. That includes everyone from the Chief down to their newest recruit.
The PPA said that's the fewest officers they've had on staff in the last 25-30 years, adding that a recent survey shows morale at the bureau is also worse than ever before.
The PPA believes higher hourly wages and incentives for recruiting more officers to the department would help boost morale and bring in more officers to the department.
However, Wheeler said he's not convinced throwing more money at the problem is the way to go about fixing it.
In a one-on-one interview with FOX 12, Wheeler said increasing pay will not change the culture or dynamic of the bureau. Instead, he suggests rebuilding trust in the community.
"If they start to see officers walking around in the community getting to know store owners, getting to know residents, showing up for the neighborhood association meetings and community events, they'll start to see the police as they used to. Which where key members of the community and problem solvers, not as "the heat" driving through in a Cruiser."
The PPA responded to Wheeler stating:
Mayor Hales understands the scope of this dire situation and is proactively seeking a way to compete with neighboring law enforcement agencies to retain and recruit the finest police officers for our organization. The association welcomes the opportunity to sit down with mayor-elect Wheeler to brief him on the scope of these issues.
Wheeler said he's certainly open to the idea of increasing PPB wages, he's just not convinced it's the first step toward boosting morale, but he is welcome to a discussion with the PPA.
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