PORTLAND, OR (KPTV) – The Portland Police Bureau says it is struggling to fill open positions within the agency, with 120 current openings for sworn officers and dozens of openings for non-sworn positions, according to bureau officials.
Right now, it’s especially difficult for the bureau because of unfortunate timing. Police Chief Danielle Outlaw says between February and March, the bureau lost 44 people due to retirement.
At a Portland City Council meeting Tuesday, bureau officials explained that several applicants have failed background checks.
“The biggest things that we see these days are drug use, dishonesty that we uncover in their backgrounds with self-admissions,” Chris Davis, assistant chief of police, said.
According to Davis, a big reason for not being able to fill both sworn-in and non-sworn-in positions has to do with drug use, including marijuana. Even though the drug legal in Oregon, because it is illegal on the federal level, the bureau cannot legally hire a sworn-in officer who has used marijuana within the last year. Davis says for non-sworn positions, that time is much less.
According to Davis, there are 39 vacant non-sworn-in positions, including police specialist positions, known as PS3s, who would respond to non-emergency calls and do not carry guns.
“We’ve gone back now to the wealth of applicants and taken the next 100 to start getting them through the process,” Davis said. “We sent 61 people to background investigations so far, and so far from this initial group, three have passed. We have had a very high background failure rate. Of the three who passed, we lost one to another agency, so we have two.”
Davis says some of those 61 applicants had used illegal drugs.
Meanwhile, Outlaw Tuesday also spoke about the nature of police work in Portland, saying it can be difficult to attract good candidates.
“We deal with demonstrations, protests, crowd management, we catch a lot of headlines,” Outlaw said. “And quite frankly, folks would rather go to other agencies and make similar or more money for less scrutiny.”
Davis says they’ve been getting on average about 103 applications a month, but the process of doing those background and reference checks is very time consuming.
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