Portland Bloats City Council While Cops are Still Shortchanged

Portland Bloats City Council While Cops are Still Shortchanged

By Stephen Owsinski

One of these days, Portland, Oregon police officers are not getting any hard-earned just desserts (and may follow in the footsteps of the exodus of cops who pledged police services elsewhere) due to Portland City Council bureaucrats bloating their city council membership from five to 12, funded to the tune of approximately $13 million.

The Portland Police Bureau officers tirelessly working the beat, significantly understaffed due to the exodus of cops opting out after severe defunding and chronic demoralization, may be lucky to receive the meager $5 million sought by Mayor Ted Wheeler to hire more law enforcement officers to supplement the already-depleted cadre.

This, while chunks of Portland’s resident and merchant populace flee the metropolis due to apprehensions about public safety, undeniably caused by the city’s governance giving blessings to heinously defunding the police force while everyone observed out-of-control malcontents trashing “The City That Works.”

For Portland, it sure doesn’t appear that things are working out well.

Published in 2022, a city-commissioned survey titled “Portland’s Insights Survey” found that slightly more than 66% of residents harped on community safety as a grave concern. (Don’t you just love when city governments expend taxpayer dollars on surveys when anyone with eyes can see the ruination, the same ruination local cops contend with and will candidly share in a minute what compensated surveyors take months to cobble together?)

A passage published by the Willamette Week elucidated “Another grim statistic” about Portland, chronicling that “Between 2020 and 2021, Multnomah County lost 1.8 billion in aggregate adjusted gross income because people moved and took their taxable income with them,” adding that in “the three years before, the county lost an average of just 96.6 million a year…”

As per usual, you get what you vote for.

As usual, ludicrous politicking giving birth to ballot measures having to do with bloating local government somehow makes the grade.

In November 2022, Portland’s voters approved growing the size of city council membership by 240% (from five seats to one dozen).

Per a September 2023 analysis conducted by the Manhattan Institute, Portland “has experienced a surge in crime and disorder over the past three years.” We’ve noticed.

It continues: “But unlike other major cities, Portland is uniquely ill-equipped to deal with this problem, because its police department is uniquely understaffed. With just 1.26 officers per every 1,000 residents, the Portland Police Bureau (PPB) ranks 48th among the nation’s 50 largest cities for its staffing-to-population ratio. As a result, PPB struggles to provide even basic service, taking up to half an hour to respond to high-priority calls.”

Now what?

Curious Findings

Whether Portland City Council has five or one dozen members, what is the plan for bolstering the police force to regain quality-of-life aspects in the Pacific Northwest municipality’s dwindled population of roughly 619,000?

An outtake from the Manhattan Institute’s report alluded to some ideas (only some of which I agree with, clarifying why):

“To their credit, Portland’s civilian leadership has belatedly recognized that increasing [Portland Police Bureau] staffing is the only way out of the current crisis.” Odd…how they willingly stepped into this mess by devaluing and defunding law enforcement officers, thereby creating this “current crisis.”

“To that end, this report recommends a number of steps that Portland can take to address its staffing problems,” including:

  • Increasing officer pay

That’s a given, especially after the major lunacy and ensuing debacle of defunding public safety professionals in the first place. Gee, I wonder if Portland has $13 million earmarked for something that they can wisely reallocate for police salary enhancements.

  • Civilianizing PPB desk jobs

Surprised this was not already a thing at PPB, as civilian support positions among the largest of America’s 18,500 or so law enforcement organizations have had this structure, successfully fulfilling the public safety mission.

(Photo courtesy of the Daphne Police Department.)

  • Increasing the number of employees working on processing job applications

That’s a general given, but the significant exodus of Portland cops connotes that hoped-for applicants know better and will steer clear of PPB positions, investing their efforts elsewhere, like police and sheriff’s departments that appreciate LEOs and show it beyond words.

  • Reducing the length of academy and field training

Nope! Not a good idea in the least, ever. Does anyone remember when Mr. Obama’s grand plan was to lower standards so that ill-qualified candidates could potentially enter the public safety arena?

Additionally, whether it is a five- or 12-member city council embodiment, none possess attributes or logical pillars to dictate reductions in police academy training, nor have they a scintilla of authoritative stature equivalent to experienced folks who comprise any Criminal Justice Standards and Training Commission (CJSTC) or Peace Officer Standards and Training (POST) entities governing certifications in law enforcement principles and the requisite hallmarks minting qualified officers.

In Oregon, the Department of Public Safety Standards and Training (DPSST) harps on “Pursuing excellence in training and accountability for public safety professionals.”

  • Conducting PPB training in Portland, rather than in the state facility in Salem

That suggestion has merit. Many law enforcement agencies utilize in-house and external premises to enhance police officer capabilities. But to train in-house, implies a police academy is necessitated, meaning dedicated costs to maintain the complex and staff it with certified instructors who are compensated. $13 million will likely take some of the edge off that prospective notion.

  • Working to regain the trust of police officers by unambiguously emphasizing support for them and their profession

Indeed, this would not be included if the powers that be didn’t unambiguously mistreat their police force, the very able-bodied protectors who diligently self-sacrifice to underwrite everyone’s sanctity and security. But, no…they went the way of the scoundrel: Betrayal.

Even though government leaders may have tucked their blinders in closets, the scars of public safety officers are indelible.

We circle back to the Portland City Council seeking to muscle up while offering crumbs to feed a malnourished (defunded) police force (no fault of their own).

Thankfully, not all politicos have their heads buried and their hands out…

“Left to its own devices, bureaucracy begets bureaucracy,” Portland Public Safety Commissioner Rene Gonzalez retorted about expanding his council cohorts’ numbers while Portland cops might receive honorable mentions. (Police funding has been requested, not granted.)

“This proposal should have been dead on arrival given urgent needs in public safety, drug crises, and infrastructure.”

The Daily Caller’s Robert Schmad reported that “The city council’s budget will increase from $10.9 million annually to $23.9 million,” confirmed by city officials overseeing Portland’s budget. In May 2023, Portland Mayor Wheeler acknowledged the proposed $7.1 billion budget for fiscal year 2024.

Have you ever heard/read that the majority of any sovereign government’s budget is ordinarily invested in public safety?

According to Mayor Wheeler, “Approximately 90% of the total budget is already dedicated to critical work like construction of new parks, treating our drinking water, paving streets, operating the city’s sanitary sewer system, and building affordable housing. Though the remaining 10% of the budget is a more discretionary resource within the General Fund, the vast majority, if not all, of those funds are already committed to existing, ongoing work like police, fire, 911 emergency response services as well as daily operations of parks and recreation services.”

Over $7 billion is a lot of money. $5 million? Not so much…especially toward beefing up the police force comprising selfless stewards maintaining law and order in a city whose leaders previously encouraged the opposite.

(Photo courtesy of the Portland Police Association.)

“This budget bolsters the Portland Police Bureau’s strong recruitment efforts to hire 300 new police officers by the end of fiscal year 2024-25 by releasing $5.3 Million of ongoing dollars for 43 new sworn officer positions,” stated the mayor’s budget synopsis.

One last item of interest: Portland chief administrative officer Michael Jordan publicly offered a statement to Axios, saying, “Finding $13 million [to expand city council members by 240%] is usually not a huge problem for the city.”

Did I mention that Portland’s city council members also gave themselves a pay raise and the pleasure of two aides per commissioner?

Per The Oregonian, “Under a previous proposal, the commission had suggested paying City Council members $142,000 when council expands to 12 members, who will be elected from geographic districts covering one-quarter of the city and will no longer oversee any bureaus.”

Fleecing the city while taxpayers flee due to community safety woes?

As for bigger bucks, reporter Jamie Goldberg clarified that “The commission approved a final salary structure […] that will see city commissioners paid $133,000 annually beginning in 2025 when Portland switches to a new form of government and triples the size of the City Council.” Bigger government?

A recent article published by the National Police Association had to do with Portland’s public safety commissioner denouncing the damages caused by “justice reforms” and touting the ideals of working together toward a safe and secure “city that works.”

In all of Portland’s bold generosity toward elected officials and staffing them with two aides apiece and restructuring their form of government to be bigger and redistricting the geography so each new member has a constituency and the renowned homelessness epidemic festers and decriminalizing narcotics to garner an “open air drug market” and other aspects most would find appalling…the prospect of appropriately funding Portland police is undeniably muted.

Sounds like we have a ways to go…