PORTLAND, OR (KPTV) - Portland City Council approved a revised contract with the Portland Police Association Wednesday.
The contract would create 12 new non-sworn police specialist positions with the bureau. The public safety support specialists would be unarmed and respond to non-emergencies, as well as handle several tasks that could help the bureau better manage its limited resources.
“There is a shortage of sworn certified, trained police officers in our community,” Mayor Ted Wheeler, a proponent of the proposal, said.
The specialists will drive specially marked vehicles, carry pepper spray and wear distinct uniforms.
Portland city council unanimously approves PPA contract amendment that would create 12 public safety support specialist positions. Unarmed PS3s will answer non-emergency calls. @tedwheeler hopes they’ll free sworn officers to respond to emergency calls.@fox12oregon pic.twitter.com/hPPMu0qXs6— Marja Martinez (@MarjaKPTV) December 5, 2018
“The PS3s won’t be sworn," Wheeler said. "They don’t carry firearms, but they can be deployed throughout the city to things that are not emergency call-related.”
According to PPB public data, officers responded to more than a quarter million calls between November 2017 and November 2018; That is more than 700 calls a day, with the average response tome at 26 minutes.
Police officials want to improve these stats.
“If somebody’s car is broken into, right now an officer goes out and fills out a report, Wheeler said. "That officer is offline for 30-40 minutes."
According to Wheeler, with a dozen new PS3s to answer non-emergency calls, “We can keep that officer out in the field where the higher priority issues are, the more violent types of crime are.”
Unlike administrative positions, these specialists will do a lot of field work.
According to police officials, candidates will undergo a 6-week training, including 40 hours focusing on crisis intervention. However, when dealing with a mental health crisis, the PS3s will need to call a sworn officer, rather than attempt to deescalate the situation alone.
Dan Handelman with the group, Portland Copwatch says it is disappointing.
“We thought these officers were going to be helping with those cases of mental health issues and now we’re being told explicitly that’s not what they’re for,” Handelman said.
Other critics say it’s irresponsible to send specialists out without a gun.
One man who testified at the city council meeting shouted, “The whole set-up is stupid.”
Despite these concerns, the council approved the move unanimously and the new jobs will be posted on the city’s website next week.
Mayor Wheeler tells FOX 12 the bureau is looking to fill the positions with people who enjoy getting connected with others in their community. There will be other requirements specified in the job listings.
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