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.