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Portland Police are hiring a college intern to help tackle bike theft

Posted by on December 16th, 2015 at 11:10 am

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Do you want to help police fight bike theft? If so, they’re hiring an intern.

As you know, we worked with the Portland Police Bureau to establish the Bike Theft Task Force last spring. The most important component of that effort was that it granted powers to two Central Precinct officers to spend official city time fighting this epidemic problem.

These officers are doing amazing work, but they only have a very limited time every week to devote to it. One of the biggest challenges we have is human capacity to throw at the problem. Now the PPB has taken a step to fix that by announcing the first-ever intern position devoted to bike theft.

According to the official description, the PPB is looking for someone who can volunteer (it’s unpaid, sorry) for 10-30 hours per month. Here’s more about the position:

The ideal applicant will be interested in bikes and addressing bike theft, and will help to create theft solutions for the City of Portland. The intern will work closely with the Bike Theft Task Force (BTTF), which is largely community driven with Police oversight.
Work may include:

• Research internal reports to analyze trends/patterns
• Distribute tips to the community via creative channels
• Network with BTTF partners in the biking community to promote the mission/goals to reduce bike theft
• Research efforts of other police departments around the nation to develop best practices for a comprehensive approach to the problem
• Work with bicycle recovery to improve practices within the Bureau to locate victims and return seized bikes to owners
• Assist with community engagement events that would promote theft education and bicycle registration.


The new intern will report to Officers Dave Sanders and Dave Bryant — both of whom I can personally vouch for as solid employees who are 100% dedicated to fighting bike theft. Take a look at the PPB Bike Theft Twitter stream to see just a sampling of the work they’ve been doing out there.

Officers Sanders told me this morning that he’s hoping to find two interns. “There is enough work for someone to do this full time.” As for what the intern will be doing, Sanders said he’s open to expanding what’s on the description. He’s got a list of things that he thinks, “Would drastically benefit the cycling community as a whole.”

“I hope to select two applicants who are passionate about addressing this problem and who may contribute creative solutions to solving it,” he said.

Why doesn’t the PPB just assign more officers to the task? Well, in case you haven’t heard there’s a very acute shortage of officers these days.

The position is only open to currently enrolled college students who are able to work between 7:00 am and 5:00 pm Wednesday through Saturday.

If you’re interested, send your application to Jennie Alexander in the PPB Personnel Division via jennie.alexander@portlandoregon.gov. You’ll also need to include a cover letter with contact information, your course of study, your resume, and a brief description of your qualifications and interest in being involved with bike theft prevention.

— Jonathan Maus, (503) 706-8804 – jonathan@bikeportland.org

NOTE: We love your comments and work hard to ensure they are productive, considerate, and welcoming of all perspectives. Disagreements are encouraged, but only if done with tact and respect. If you see a mean or inappropriate comment, please contact us and we'll take a look at it right away. Thank you — Jonathan

21 Comments
  • resopmok December 16, 2015 at 12:47 pm

    I’m glad PPB is reaching out for help dealing with a problem they seem not to have resources to address. The cynic in me, however, worries that they will soon see how they get what they pay for, and that would be of little benefit to the whole community. For what seems to be such a prevelant property crime, I wonder why so little help is forthcoming; bike theft is not a victimless crime. Where can more funding to address bike theft be found, and what would be the best way to spend those resources?

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    • lop December 16, 2015 at 1:12 pm

      >For what seems to be such a prevalent property crime, I wonder why so little help is forthcoming

      They have other priorities, not enough officers to give everything the attention it deserves.

      http://www.oregonlive.com/portland/index.ssf/2015/12/critcal_shortage_of_patrol_off.html

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    • Spiffy December 16, 2015 at 1:42 pm

      since the theft rate is about on par with auto theft I wonder how many officers they have dedicated to that…

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    • Todd Hudson December 16, 2015 at 1:50 pm

      Our illustrious mayor, who is in charge of PPB, may have a lot to do with that.

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  • SilkySlim December 16, 2015 at 1:39 pm

    Fight fire with undergrads! Errr, undergrad. Errr, unpaid undergrad. Errr, part time, unpaid undergrad.

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  • Lillian December 16, 2015 at 2:48 pm

    Disappointed that they’re not paying the intern. I interned at Portland Police and was paid for my time.

    Additionally, isn’t that a FLSA violation to have a public sector intern who is displacing the work of paid employees?

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    • BeavertonRider December 16, 2015 at 3:21 pm

      What FLSA provision do you think is being violated?

      Some labor contracts will prohibit laying off employees so that the position can be filled with unpaid employees. But even if that exists in the current PPB CBA, it wouldn’t apply as a specific officer position is not being filled and there’s a shortage of candidates to fill positions anyway.

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  • scott December 16, 2015 at 2:59 pm

    Unpaid? Wow. That seems wildly out of touch. I’m aware of that type of internship from the fashion industry, or advertising, or high finance where who you know is very important and bloated fat cats often prey upon the eager and energetic to exploit their drive and desire, but unpaid to be a cop lackey? Cops, if anything, prove time and again that anyone can be a cop. I mean, I’m not even sure how that would boost a resume unless you were applying for loss prevention at Wal-Mart.

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    • BeavertonRider December 16, 2015 at 3:24 pm

      Out of touch with what? Many employers have unpaid and volunteer positions, including the public sector. This will be work experience for a college student that will serve 2 purposes – a) provides a service to PPB; and b) practical work experience that will likely be applicable to a career.

      Why do you think such positions are out of touch.

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      • scott December 16, 2015 at 4:08 pm

        Because the cost of living has out paced earning potential every year since 1962, so working for free is just digging yourself a pit. Especially for a college student who has potential for a big financial pit upon graduation with not a lot of earning potential even with specialized degrees.

        If you choose a career where connections made can increase earning potential down the road the sacrifice of pay for a short period can be justified. At PPB, however, everyone but the cops are going to be using off the shelf office tools that you can teach yourself with YouTube videos. If someone decides to be a cop they will be trained on job specific instrumentation in the lead up and the specific tools might even have been updated since the internship. So what is learned? Gumption? How to work for free? Places in SW to get cheap/free lunches? Horse puckey BeavertonRider. Please be nice to others. thanks – Jonathan

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        • BeavertonRider December 16, 2015 at 8:18 pm

          Finally, a warning for personal attacks for Scott.

          Scott, you didn’t answer the question. You said unpaid internships are out of touch. I asked you out of touch with what? Your philosophy re: the value of unpaid internships is what it is. But your philosophy is hardly mainstream let alone a popular one.

          Whether an individual will leave college with debt or go on to a lucrative career is quite inconsequential to the matter of whether an intern program is or can be valuable. Hundreds of thousands of young adults actually disagree with you.

          I think a legitimate question here is whether this intern will be doing actual staff work (whether or not it would performed by a sworn officer) and therefore should be classified as an “employee” under provisions of the FLSA. It does not appear that the internship will be primarily for the individual’s benefit or performing work under the very close supervision of other employees.

          PPB says it doesn’t have the resources to properly staff this function (well, duh, ditch the worthless inclusion and diversity positions and devote those dollars to real police work), hence, it’s clear that the individual(s) selected for this internship will be “suffering labor” to use FLSA’s archaic language. It’s most likely these should be paid, but, hey, when you prefer to spend police dollars on worthless eye-candy like a diversity office then I guess you end up in a situation whee the police department cannot adequately resources many activities.

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          • scott December 17, 2015 at 9:50 am

            “Horse puckey” was not a personal attack, but in reference to the concept you were defending of someone working for free. The phrase was in retort to your position, not directed at you whom I don’t even know aside from a collection of characters that you post under. I did not know you were so thin skinned, and will refrain from country witticisms so as not to upset the balance.

            My answer was that this is definitely and internship that should be paid. When in college, I had 6 internship through various institutions that were not funded on a level even close to PPB and they all came with a stipend. My seventh was from a billion dollar corporation with tons of connection and cultural capital and even they gave me a stipend.

            Volunteer work is what you do for free and as altruistic as your intentions might be, recovery of stolen property isn’t a volunteer position. Internships need to come with compensation because you are expected to act in ways that an employee would act. My sole concession was that a case could be made to work for free in certain scenarios, but this is not one of them.

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            • scott December 17, 2015 at 11:45 am

              Just some simple maths here: $10,000 divided by 12 is around $830 a month. Stipends for interns are usually around $400 so for 10 grand they could give 2 college students $400 a month.

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              • scott December 17, 2015 at 11:47 am

                …for a year.

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  • Todd Boulanger December 16, 2015 at 3:20 pm

    With the increased enforcement in the CBD/ Inner Eastside the bike chop shops may be radiating outwards. Just last week…I saw a man with several bikes and parts in a shopping cart down on the Smear Train under crossing as I biked over the Denver Viaduct.

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  • Tom Hardy December 16, 2015 at 4:55 pm

    I applied a couple of years ago to “Volunteer at the PPB in the bike theft program but they would not accept anyone that was not a registered student. Unfortunately an EE tutor did not qualify. so been there dun that did not qualify.

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    • BeavertonRider December 16, 2015 at 8:19 pm

      Right. PPB is doing that to avoid having to pay the intern as an employee. PPB probably will argue, if anyone bothered to ask, that this intern activity is primarily to the student’s benefit. They’re wrong, but I wonder if anyone would challenge it.

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      • scott December 17, 2015 at 11:46 am

        Wait…so now you are agreeing that this unpaid internship won’t benefit the student?

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  • Mark December 17, 2015 at 7:51 am

    So the police need to exploit college students in order to tamp down the exploitation of college students by bike theft.

    Hmmm.

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  • Mike Quiglery December 17, 2015 at 8:11 am

    Appears to be a paper shuffling/generating job for the most part. Don’t expect much to come of it. Maybe that’s why it’s unpaid?

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  • Ron G. December 18, 2015 at 9:15 am

    From the description this sounds like a violation of the spirit, if not the actual letter, of internship requirements. Internships are supposed to be training-based; and, according to the state’s website, “The employer that provides the training derives no immediate advantage from the activities of the trainees or students; and on occasion his operations may actually be impeded.”
    It really looks like they’re attempting to derive immediate advantage. PPB should be doing this in-house, with real staff. If for some reason they find investigating one of the biggest categories of theft (in terms of incidence, anyway) too distasteful, they should hire a qualified consultant who actually cares.
    It’s pretty well documented that bikes can be currency in underground economies, so disrupting the flow of stolen bikes could have some major positive benefits in addressing overall crime. The fact that it remains such a low priority they’d hand it off to a volunteer shows they’re still looking at bike theft as a playground problem.

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