Portland, OR – The mayor of Portland has plans to start a pilot program where non-sworn officers will not carry weapons and be used on non-emergency calls.
Mayor Ted Wheeler’s plan needs final approval by the City Council on Dec. 5, according to the Williamette Week.
The non-sworn officers are called Public Safety Support Specialists and will be utilized on property crimes and break-ins, according to Wheeler.
The mayor cut the city’s mounted police from the budget so he could fund the Public Safety Support Specialists, which could be hired in January, according to the Williamette Week.
The police union has been in negotiations since July with the city over the new hires.
Portland Police Association President Daryl Turner says the Public Safety Support Specialists won’t respond to calls for service without being accompanied by a sworn officer. Turner said they may provide support by working at the front desks at precincts or waiting for tow trucks at the scene of car accidents, according to the Williamette Week.
Proponents of hiring the Public Safety Support Specialists said they could build more trust with citizens.
Wheeler had promised to use the saving from cutting the mounted police to fund 14 unarmed community service officers, the Williamette Week reported.
“When you bring your gun and a badge into a situation, it can make some people uneasy,” says Sam Sachs, a former Portland park ranger, according to the Williamette Week. “If you’re not wearing a gun, it kind of changes things.”
The unarmed Public Safety Support Specialists were pitched in 2017. Originally, they were supposed to be working by January of 2019, but city officials admit that won’t happen.
In 2017, then Police Chief Mike Marshman said the program was to be modeled after one in San Diego. Community service officers in San Diego patrol neighborhoods and write reports and also help children cross the streets after school, according to the Williamette Week.