More than two years after Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler de-funded the mounted patrol unit to fund a new group of unarmed officers, the Portland Police Bureau has hired the first group of recruits to fill those community-policing positions.

PPB announced June 27 it had finally hired nine Public Safety Support Specialists, unarmed employees who can assist sworn officers responding to some low-priority calls, such as non-injury traffic accidents. They can also perform other tasks that are unlikely to place the unarmed cops in harm's way.

Wheeler's 2017 budget proposal initially funded 12 community service officers, later renamed PS3s. The bureau has been working to recruit, background and train the new hires since the positions received final approval after union negations in late 2018.

"We are very excited to bring these high caliber individuals on board in the Public Safety Support Specialist and Police Officer roles," Chief Danielle Outlaw said in a statement. "We invite anyone considering a career in public service to apply to join our team as we continue to provide the highest quality public service in Portland."

The bureau also hired five new sworn police officers.

PPB has been facing a staffing shortage with more than 100 open positions in recent months. To address its recruiting struggles, the bureau recently lowered its hiring standards. New police can be hired with a GED and tattoos visible above the neck will not disqualify potential recruits.