Portland Police Chief Wants to Add Tech Support Jobs to Help with Body Camera Program

The city is awaiting changes to state law, seeking restrictions on who may access the police video recordings and an exception that would free police from having to notify those being recorded ahead of time.

by Maxine Bernstein, The Oregonian / February 5, 2015

(TNS) -- An outside consultant has found that the Portland Police Bureau's 930-member force is understaffed by at least 24 people, including officers, detectives and sergeants.

Officers' average response time to emergency calls is slowing, expected to exceed the bureau's five-minute goal by 50 seconds by the end of the current fiscal year.

And the bureau's rate of clearing violent crimes and property crimes is low: 40 percent for crimes against people and 14 percent for property crimes.

Portland's new police chief cited all those factors in his proposed $181 million budget, seeking nine new full-time positions costing $835,570 for the new fiscal year that begins in July.

But the positions aren't for uniformed officers. They're for crime analysts and civilian technical support hires.

The budget proposal requests money for six crime analysts to examine and compile reports on traffic stop data and do audits of police use of force required to comply with the city's settlement with the U.S. Department of Justice. The settlement followed a 2012 federal investigation that found police engaged in a pattern of excessive force against people with mental illness.

The bureau is seeking another three technical support positions - a digital media program manager, a records specialist and an information technology specialist -- for a police body camera program.

The city is awaiting changes to state law during this legislative session, seeking restrictions on who may access the police video recordings and an exception that would free police from having to notify those being recorded ahead of time.

The bureau wants to select a camera vendor sometime between July and September.

"That is one tool that can increase people's trust in the police,'' Chief Larry O'Dea said.

The bureau anticipates that nearly 18 percent of the bureau's officers will be eligible for retirement by July 1, 2017, so it's working to recruit and hire new officers to get trainees in the pipeline to fill vacancies that arise.

Because the mayor asked bureaus to submit "stabilization" budget requests, the bureau offered ways to offset the added jobs: eliminate two patrol officers and one officer each in the Traffic Division, Gang Enforcement Team, Drugs and Vice Division, and a civilian police records specialist.

But the bureau made it clear that such cuts would be painful, slowing the bureau's response time to emergencies and reducing the arrest rates of its specialty enforcement units.

"Some of the work units are already running short-staffed and unable to adequately manage the workload,'' the chief's budget proposal says.

The bureau and mayor's office so far have declined to release the outside consultant's draft report on police staffing, which was delivered to the city last month. The budget request makes reference to some of its findings: that the bureau is understaffed in several divisions and resources should be realigned to improve supervisors' span of control.

Officer Daryl Turner, president of the Portland Police Association, said he's disappointed the bureau is not seeking to bolster its force.

"We are desperately lean,'' Turner said. "We need to hire more police officers, and that's not happening.''

The bureau is hoping to add positions that would be covered by outside revenue: an evidence control specialist, whose job would be funded from the increased sale of abandoned property; two police officer positions added to the Transit Division, funded by an interagency agreement with TriMet; and three technical positions to help in the bureau's transition to a new records database system called Regional Justice Information Network, or RegJIN, set to go live in April.

RegJIN is replacing the Portland Police Database System and will provide a regional record-keeping system for more than 40 law enforcement agencies in the metro region. The bureau is seeking a management analyst, program manager and records supervisor, jobs that are to be 

©2015 The Oregonian (Portland, Ore.)

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