Portland, OR – The Portland Police Bureau (PPB) said the mayor’s recent attempt to lure back recently-retired officers failed miserably, with only two out of 81 potential applicants expressing any interest in the “Retire/Rehire Program.”
Portland Mayor Tom Wheeler advocated for the re-hiring campaign in October of 2021 when it became clear the staffing shortage on the police department had reached dangerous proportions, KOIN reported.
Wheeler said at the time he announced the re-hiring program that he hoped to attract as many as 100 former Portland police officers out of retirement and back onto the force.
The mayor called it a short-term way to solve the staffing crisis because it bypassed the need for months of training in the police academy, Oregon Public Broadcasting reported.
PPB has also been actively recruiting for the police academy and offering high signing bonuses.
“We currently have about 80 officers who will be eligible in July to retire,” PPB Chief Chuck Lovell explained. “Instead of seeing them leave and our numbers decrease, it will allow us a vehicle to bring them back to keep them from leaving, and prevent what would essentially be a retirement cliff in July.”
PPB is supposed to have 882 sworn officers, but right now the police force is 96 officers short, FOX News reported.
Retired officers who participate in the retire/rehire program re-enter the police force at the same rank and salary that they retired, while at the same time collecting their city retirement benefits and paying into a state retirement fund, Oregon Public Broadcasting reported.
The program isn’t new, but it had been put on hold because the city deemed it too expensive.
But the program won’t work if nobody wants to keep working as a police officer in the anti-police environment that surrounds Portland, FOX News reported.
The Portland Police Association president, Portland Police Sergeant Aaron Schmautz, said some of the potential applicants were turned off by a clause that said “any officers who were found to have violated city policy by cooperating with federal agents to attack Portland residents” were disqualified from the program, KOIN reported.
“We have a lot of people who retired, long-standing, have a ton to offer — and when they see things, it implies they are a part of those things,” Sgt. Schmautz explained.
The union boss said that a large group of officers were planning to retire from the police bureau in July and said the city needed to come up with incentives to keep those officers from retiring, KOIN reported.
Retired Portland Police Officer Stephanie Hudson called the mayor’s request for help from retirees “laughable,” and referred to the same clause in the letter from the mayor inviting them to participate in the retire/rehire program, FOX News reported.
“Your letter indicates that nothing has changed,” former Officer Hudson wrote. “It simply highlights why those who could leave, did leave. I suspect it will take a decade or more to repair the damage that has been done,” Hudson said.
Morale hit an all-time low on the Portland police force in 2021 in the wake of the riots and amidst defunding efforts and officers said returning to PPB is not about the money.
A survey conducted last summer revealed that nearly all of the defunded PPB’s rank-and-file officers believed local government officials were against them.
“No one is standing up for what is actually right,” one officer wrote in the survey, according to KPTV. “Public safety has been abandoned by the city council for political performance.”
Politicians have been tying officers’ hands, creating more and more victims as a result, another officer said.
“Hard to be a cop when elected officials think it’s our job to investigate not prevent crime,” the officer’s survey response read. “Tell it to the victims.”