Comment of the Week: Police slow down, staff shortage both to blame for enforcement woes

Some BikePortland posts spark really strong comment threads, and that was the case with Friday’s post about the statement from Commissioner Mapps’s office on recent traffic deaths.

Speaking on behalf of Commissioner Mapps, Senior Policy Advisor Shannon Carney responded to a BikePortland query with a statement which led with the need for more enforcement:

Commissioner Mapps feels that beyond PBOT’s efforts to increase speed cameras, the most effective immediate intervention is enforcement, penalties and public awareness regarding breaking traffic laws. It is also a necessity to expand PPB’s recently reinstated traffic unit as soon as possible. Finally, it’s critical to raise the community’s awareness of enforcement, which is something Commissioner Mapps plans to do through his own efforts.

Skirmishes over enforcement issues occur regularly in the BikePortland comments sections, and the back and forth has become predictable.

That’s one reason that Franci’s comment stood out. In response to the usual police “slow down” vs. “staff shortage” argument Franci wrote something I hadn’t heard before. “It’s both.” I did some very rudimentary fact checking and came across this historical timeline on the Portland Police Bureau web page, which confirmed what Franci wrote—that there had indeed been a hiring push in the late 1990s.

So in the interest of moving the conversation forward, or at least changing it a little, here is Franci’s comment:

I work daily w/PPB officers. It’s both.

The staffing situation was entirely predictable. 25-30 years ago, PPB was also short on officers. They went on a big hiring spree to fill the ranks. Those officers are now hitting 25 years and eligibility for retirement. Many of those officers have retired from PPB and gone on to work for other agencies while collecting a very generous pension on top of their current paychecks. This was happening prior to 2020 and BLM and Covid. The remaining officers resent the people of Portland and see us as the enemy for the most part. They are angry that they aren’t getting the help they expect and need. On that point, I don’t entirely blame them. PPB leadership has done this to themselves. They set up the officer shortage by, once again, not looking forward and anticipating the wave of retirements. That existing shortage was exacerbated by the events of 2020. The attitude displayed by the agency made them appear to be a very toxic place to work.

Short of wiping the slate clean by firing everyone from the chief on down and starting from scratch, I don’t know what the solution is.


Thank you Franci! You can read Franci’s comment and all the others under the original post.

Lisa Caballero (Assistant Editor)

Lisa Caballero (Assistant Editor)

Lisa Caballero is on the board of SWTrails PDX, and was the chair of her neighborhood association's transportation committee. A proud graduate of the PBOT/PSU transportation class, she got interested in local transportation issues because of service cuts to her bus, the 51. Lisa has lived in Portland for 23 years and can be reached at lisacaballero853@gmail.com.

Subscribe
Notify of
guest

30 Comments
oldest
newest most voted
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
 
 
10 months ago

It’s both.

This is almost always the answer to any question that’s framed as an either-or these days, I’ve noticed.

Serenity
Serenity
10 months ago
Reply to   

Yes, because they are usually not questions have simple either/or answers

John
John
10 months ago
Reply to   

Yes, but that also makes it not a very interesting or nuanced thing to say. “It’s both” is always true about almost everything and avoids talking about what “it mostly is”.
Franci did go into more details which were interesting, but if your takeaway is “it’s both” then that’s just oversimplified.

Serenity
Serenity
10 months ago

Is that an option?

Jay Cee
Jay Cee
10 months ago

Yes, they have staffing woes and as mentioned some of it was foreseeable, but I think the really concerning thing is this admission

The remaining officers resent the people of Portland and see us as the enemy for the most part.

This was clearly illustrated back in 2016-2019 when PPB sided with the proud boys and patriot prayer during their weekly violent protests and attacks on the people of Portland.

This has been continued to be illustrated by how they refuse to do even the most basic public services to enforce traffic laws or helping crime victims, especially victims of property theft or vehicular violence.

Short of wiping the slate clean by firing everyone from the chief on down and starting from scratch, I don’t know what the solution is.

same bestie, same

Watts
Watts
10 months ago
Reply to  Jay Cee

they refuse to do even the most basic public services

How do you know they are “refusing” and that this is not primarily a symptom of being short staffed?

John
John
10 months ago
Reply to  Watts

As usual, “if you don’t have it in writing, signed and notarized, from every officer that they are refusing to do their jobs on purpose, you can’t make any inference based on the facts we have about what they’re doing.”

They may be short staffed (although, doubt, as that depends on what they do with their time), but they’re not THAT short staffed. Sure, if they were at like 5% of nominal staffing, I would expect them to be completely hands off in almost everything. What we have s a slight short staffing, not that significantly different from what it was, say five years ago, and what appears to be essentially no action from the police on all the issues we talk about here on BP almost daily. It just doesn’t add up.

Watts
Watts
10 months ago
Reply to  John

“not that significantly different from what it was, say five years ago”

The situation on the street is significantly worse than it was 5 years, so that comparison doesn’t tell you much.

Compared to other cities, we have much more than a “slight” short staffing.

socially engineered
socially engineered
10 months ago
Reply to  Watts

We know of at least one credible allegation that PPB officer Shawn Schroeder refused to ticket or arrest a driver with a history of reckless driving who made an illegal high-speed turn, injuring a pedestrian. Instead he told the victim to take it up with City Council. Does that sound like the result of staffing problems to you?

https://bikeportland.org/2023/06/21/in-letter-to-da-lawyer-demands-stronger-punishment-for-dangerous-drivers-376401

Watts
Watts
10 months ago

I agree with your assessment of that case.

The question of whether the police are conducting a deliberate slowdown is an important one, and it deserves much more analysis than people throwing the usual political hand grenades.

What we need is evidence, not more unfounded politically expedient allegations.

Dwk
Dwk
10 months ago
Reply to  Watts

2 weeks ago at the south side of the 28th NE bridge I rolled up to a police car that was stopped outside the obvious chop shop has been on the corner for 6 months at least.
I politely asked the 2 police people in the car if they were here to do something about this scene and they told me to call Mayor Wheelers office if I wanted something done about it…..
I would call that blatantly Refusing to do their job.
Do you have another explanation for it?
I did contact the Mayors office, I Have never heard back so there is your evidence.
This is a completely failing city.

OGB
OGB
10 months ago
Reply to  Watts

There are lots of anecdotes I could mention of officers refusing to do their jobs, and not because they’re too busy. But if what you need is an admission by Portland Police that they’re engaging in an intentional slowdown, then you’ll never be convinced since they would never do that. You have to be able to connect the dots. Police officers spotted spending hours on-the-clock sitting at a cafe, while 911 operators tell callers that response times are long because of “under-staffing” (according to comments by locals that give specifics)? It seems plenty damning to me.

The “Portland Police have been defunded!” talking point is really absurd and needs to stop
https://pdx.vote/defund-the-narrative-the-portland-police-have-been-defunded-talking-point-is-really-absurd-and-needs-to-stop/
– tables and charts of budget etc. figures
– increase for patrol expenses 2017-2022 was about 53%
– many links, explains origins of Defund movement, etc.
– data drawn from here:
https://www.bls.gov/regions/west/data/consumerpriceindex_portland_table.pdf

Mayor Rebukes Portland Police Citing Understaffing as Reason for Slow Response: “Bullsh**” [my edit due to BP comment guidelines]
https://www.wweek.com/news/courts/2022/08/31/mayor-calls-rebukes-portland-police-bureaus-claims-of-understaffing-bullshit/
– among other things, mentions that staffing issues are mostly from inability to find hiring candidates that pass background checks

Portland Police Bureau’s budget reduction was slight and short-lived
https://www.streetroots.org/news/2022/08/03/ppb-budget-2022

A Bystander Called Police After Driver Raged Through East Portland. He Never Heard Back.
The driver says he turned himself in to the police. He has not been charged with a crime.
https://www.wweek.com/news/courts/2022/08/26/a-bystander-called-police-after-driver-raged-through-east-portland-he-never-heard-back/

Watts
Watts
10 months ago
Reply to  OGB

But if what you need is an admission by Portland Police

What I really want is enough evidence of a deliberate slowdown (an allegation that is both serious and unsubstantiated, but not necessarily wrong) that it can be published by WW or The Oregonian.

If the problem is what you describe, then presenting evidence is the only way it’s going to get fixed. Folks can grouse here all they want (and it’s the American way to grouse about the police), but without evidence and media coverage, it means nothing.

dwk
dwk
10 months ago
Reply to  Watts

LOL, I won’t believe anything until some 21 year old writes about it in Willamette Week or the The Oregonian which is barely alive and functioning….

Watts
Watts
10 months ago
Reply to  dwk

They’re not what they once were, but they’ve been doing better on that front lately, and have broken some important stories (such as the whole Shemia Fagan fiasco) in the part of the paper that still isn’t about weed.

joan
10 months ago
Reply to  Watts

Workers conducting an illegal work slowdown in violation of their labor agreement are typically going to avoid things that might appear as evidence.

Watts
Watts
10 months ago
Reply to  joan

What conspiracy theorists often get wrong is how hard it is to keep a plot involving hundreds of disparate folks going without someone spilling the beans, especially when not everyone shares the same political goals.

Matt S.
Matt S.
9 months ago
Reply to  Watts

I don’t think here’s there’s an intentional slow down by most, but I personally am aware of the inner workings of the PPB and I know for a fact that senior officers not looking to promote have a lot of tactics up their sleeves that reduce their daily work load (work load being a proactive, publicly engaged officer). They “dog” calls by remaining on them way too long, they’ll attach themselves to other officer’s calls and be “backup,” they’ll write reports and remain in the parking lot long after, “waiting for the big one.” Meaning, they’ll justify their behavior by stating assertions like, “they pay me well not to drive around and stop jaywalkers, but to available to run in head first during an active shooter.” Therefore they rest in lots because the engaged officer seeking arrests for guns and drugs is a young wo/man’s game wanting to climb the ladder. They’ll use the staff shortage as a scapegoat for always being tired, but they’ll be glad to take 20 hours of overtime a week if all they have to do is, “just be available.” I can go on an on about it, but one thing I noticed when I was an officer several years ago was, there’s no shortage in dodging work…

Watts
Watts
9 months ago
Reply to  Matt S.

I find this explanation credible — it fits well with my experience in other walks of life.

Shirking seems a universal human constant, and policing offers a high degree of autonomy that makes it much easier. I’ve also found that the problem gets worse when morale is low, or there is a sense of futility about the larger purpose of what people are supposed to be doing.

John
John
10 months ago
Reply to  Watts

What are you a PR spokesman for the mayor and Portland Police and judges and attorneys it’s been on TV and radio and in the newspapers for years I have had robberies and assaults where the police did nothing that’s dereliction of Duty and they should be prosecuted but they’re above the law

Granpa
Granpa
10 months ago

A distinction should be made between the people of Portland as described by the author as law enforcement’s enemy and The People of Portland, a grassroots organization that sprang up in favor of a safer, cleaner and law abiding Portland. City “leadership” earned the enmity of the police as Wheeler and crew stood back and allowed vandalism, arson looting and rioting to become a nightly event as if it were equivalent with peaceful protests.
I’ll wager that 99% of the cops are heartsick with the state of the city and that those who continued to join rioters after black community leaders condemned the “protests”, are gloating with schadenfreude at the sorry state of Portland they helped usher in.

Andrew N
Andrew N
10 months ago
Reply to  Granpa

Um, it’s People For Portland and they are not “grassroots” or “for Portland”, though they would like you to believe that. PFP is funded by dark money and are the Portland Liberal equivalent of MAGA thanks to their boot-licking appeal to police power and their attempts to mis-inform and divert blame for social breakdown. *** Moderator: deleted last three sentences. ***

 
 
10 months ago
Reply to  Andrew N

“Bootlicker” is one of those words that I see in a comment that causes me to pretty much automatically disregard whatever the commenter says. Similar in that way to words like “woke”, “commie”, or the like that the far-right likes to throw around with no meaning other than to name-call.

SD
SD
10 months ago
Reply to  Granpa

Do you mean “The People for Portland”, which has primarily consisted of long time political operatives, Kevin Looper and Dan Lavey, who is a Republican strategist that has worked for Gordon Smith, Chris Dudley and Knute Beuler? Both of them signing on to Betsy Johnson’s campaign. A group that doesn’t reveal its donors and and was even abandoned by former donor, Tim Boyle, who accurately saw that they were just stoking anger. Do you mean the paid consultants that have sustained an astroturfing campaign with poverty and crime pornography in line with Fox and NewsMax that Portland is burning and is the result of failed liberal policy; the group published misleading, garbage-polls to sway city council votes. The group that exploits the fears and grievances of low information voters to construe all homeless as criminals and public servants trying to create affordable housing as incompetent? while backing the criminalization of poverty, and candidates who want to bring back poor courts, eliminate Portland Street Response and who have built their careers on undermining public health policy for cheap political points. Who have backed Rene “the cruelty is the point” Gonzalez.

This group has abandoned seeking police accountability from a police department that has been plagued with racism, lawsuits for unacceptable violence, repeated evidence that they do in fact resent Portlanders and are staffed largely by people that are unprofessional and aligned with anti-Portland political sentiment, Proud Boys, white supremacists, and have abused their office to interfere with Portland politics. People for Portland, instead, have blamed all crime on the Portland DA, and as ridiculous as this claim is for anyone who knows how things work, people have bought it and the cops love it.

Yes, sadly, they have convinced a number of susceptible people, many of them elderly and with legitimate concerns, that People for Portland is a grassroots group that cares about Portland. The truth is they have done more damage to Portland with their messaging and rage-farming than the actual problems Portland is facing. They are grifters getting paid to perpetuate a cycle of despair and hopelessness. Don’t fall for it, Granpa.

🚲
🚲
10 months ago
Reply to  SD

comment of the week!!!

Dwk
Dwk
10 months ago
Reply to  SD

You don’t like People for Portland which is fair.
Do you think the general state of the City is doing well?
Better than 5 years ago? Ted Wheeler and the city and County are doing even a reasonable job?
Those are also fair questions…
Defending the status quo is a full time job I think, glad you are up for it.
As a long time liberal I am embarrassed by Portlands Council and I see no reasonable alternative so I don’t mind the criticism from People for Portland because nothing is moving in the right direction here.

SD
SD
10 months ago
Reply to  Dwk

“Criticizing People for Portland” ———> worm hole———> tear in the space-time continuum ———-> my brain is Simone Biles at the 2016 olympics ———> “defending the status quo”

Dwk
Dwk
10 months ago
Reply to  SD

You clearly stated that the group was lying about Portland being a failing city. Tell us where you think that is wrong?
If that’s not true then the status quo is working isn’t it?

Max S (Wren)
Max S (Wren)
10 months ago
Reply to  Dwk

Saying an organization is a shadowy right-wing group trying to undermine progress does not imply you think the status quo is good, come on.

This false dichotomy really frustrates me, because it’s attitude that rewards grifters who exploit anger at genuine problems (which Portland absolutely has), and redirect it away from where it’s needed.

Granpa
Granpa
10 months ago
Reply to  SD

Yeah, People For Portland
Thanks for the correction and for not launching into vitriolic invectives. ( and for introducing me to the term rage farming.) As you say, they give voice to legitimate concerns. Among those are failed Portland policies, and the spike in crime which includes crimes committed by the homeless.
As for me, I don’t watch or listen to Fox or NewsMax and I am not a low information voter. My demographic ( white male of a certain age) has little exposure to police racism or excessive violence . I have seen black bloc anarchists taunting police and as eager to do violence as Proud Boys. And I know the right wing echo chambers of Fox and others have liberal equivalent echo chambers with zealots frothing just as madly (Hi Jonathan). Regardless of right or left, half of the population disagrees with you and half disagrees with me (and sometimes it is the same half). I agree that homelessness is a societal failing, that people should not die from cars and the climate crisis is bigger and worse than imaginable. Apparently we do not agree that crime should be punishable, but you are just a person correcting wrong thinking on the internet, so I take that with a grain of salt.
From the post prior to yours it is evident that rage on the left is as present as it is on the right but you kept chill and are easy to “talk” to