Portland Police Bureau hiring standards contribute to staffing shortage

Over the past few years, staffing shortages has affected the Portland Police Bureau.
Published: Nov. 14, 2022 at 9:34 AM PST
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PORTLAND, Ore. (KPTV) - Despite public refrains about problems recruiting new officers, the Portland Police Bureau’s internal hiring statistics paint a different picture of the bureau’s staffing issues.

According to the police bureau’s 2021 Annual Report, 42 sworn officers retired that year, and 58 more chose to leave the bureau in what it calls “unplanned separations.” But despite the departures, there was strong interest in the bureau’s open officer positions. Six hundred and seventy-five people applied for the job, and the bureau conducted 568 background checks, but only 27 officers were ultimately hired, just 4% of those who applied, and well short of the bureau’s internal goals.

“Ten percent historically has kind of been the number that we’ve worked with,” said Sgt. Trevor Tyler, who works in the bureau’s personnel division.

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Tyler said two common barriers to entry for applicants are spotty driving records and recent marijuana use.

“If you’ve had three tickets within the last three years, I’m prohibited from being able to move you forward in the process because I have to be able to get you insured by the City of Portland,” said Tyler.

As for marijuana, which has been legal in Oregon since 2016, a federal mandate that requires no marijuana use in the past 12 months for officers to access the federal system to run background checks on suspects.

“And the problem is that some of the people that we get in front of or some of the people that decide they want to be police officers, six months ago when they were at a party, they might have partaken in marijuana products, and now they have to wait for six more months until they can apply,” said Tyler.

FOX 12 filed a records request asking how many applicants were disqualified for either their driving records or marijuana use, but after more than a month, that request still hasn’t been filled.

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Generally speaking, Tyler said there are “a number” of applicants that declared recent marijuana use each hiring cycle.

The Portland Police Bureau is actively recruiting new officers, and has hired a total of 63 so far this year.