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July 7th, 2004 Nick Budnick | News Stories
 

Recruiting Blues

Cop shop has trouble attracting good, experienced officers.

     
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Top brass at the Portland cop shop are considering scrapping a key perk--a four-day work week--at a time when attracting good recruits is getting more difficult.

In the wake of an arbitrator's recent ruling granting a pay raise to city police officers, the Portland Police Bureau is mulling the idea of returning to a traditional work week of five eight-hour shifts. Managers complain that the current setup of four 10-hour days is not cost-effective, but Robert King, president of the officers union, says it "is a big draw" for would-be cops. "It provides 52 additional days off to be with their families."

And, when it comes to recruiting, the bureau needs all the help it can get, according to closed-door testimony given during the salary arbitration.

Portland used to be able to compete with big cities such as Seattle and San Francisco for new cops. In fact, "We had people coming from...all across the country," thanks to Portland's reputation as "the premier law-enforcement job in Oregon," Sgt. Ronald Alexander, a PPB recruiter, testified during a March 5, 2004, arbitration hearing between the city and the Portland Police Association, the officers' union.

Today, Alexander said, Portland has problems competing even with smaller neighbors like Vancouver. Officers and police agencies "in the surrounding areas no longer view Portland...as a threat in terms of drawing away experienced police officers," said Alexander, who supervises background investigations.

That's a problem because Portland gets about a third of its officers in "lateral transfers" from other agencies, Alexander said. Of the 58 officers who applied to transfer to Portland last year, 25 flunked the "phase one" psychological exam, he testified, adding that "it's a little scary because they already are [cops], someplace."

He said "lots" more would-be transfers failed the subsequent background investigation. "They're not coming here for advancement. They're coming here to escape from where they are," he said. "They have issues at their current agency with discipline problems, or we'll find out there [are] other personal issues."

Regardless, the difficulties in recruiting mean that the bureau has been unable to achieve its goal of diversifying. According to the bureau, of the 40 officers hired in the past 12 months, all but four are white. One of the recruits is Asian, and three-- including Chief Derrick Foxworth's son--are African American.

 
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