Portland, Ore., police officers are fleeing the city’s force, and often taking a hit to pay and benefits to do so.
The flight of law enforcement from the city is “unprecedented,” Assistant Chief Michael Frome told the Portland Tribune. “We really have not seen this many people leaving at this stage in their career.”
Nine officers have resigned from the Portland Police Department since November, and another 14 have filed papers to leave by the end of January. Seven others have made initial filings preparing to retire. About 25 officers are looking to transfer to other police departments, Frome, who heads the Human Resources Department, said based off requests he has received for officers’ personnel files.
The departures come after a summer of unrest pummeled the city. Nightly protests and riots took place for over 100 days straight in Portland following the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis. Floyd died in police custody with fentanyl and methamphetamines in his system. The four former police officers involved in Floyd’s arrest have been charged over his death.
Floyd’s death ignited mass protests over alleged systemic racism in police forces across the country. Hundreds of riots rocked major cities as calls to defund police departments began to spread, most often by members of the Black Lives Matter movement pushing for money to be used on social programs rather than law enforcement.
The activists’ calls to cut police budgets were picked up by some of Portland’s elected officials. In June, the City Council approved a $15 million cut to the police department’s budget to funnel more money into spending on social programs.
The cut sent the bureau reeling as it laid off some officers and cut its recruiter position since the department did not have money to make new hires anyway. The department cut vacant positions that it had historically held open to keep a steady stream of recruits, which require 18 months of training to begin independent police work, coming into the force.
“When the cuts came in and we basically lost our vacancies, that put us in a bigger fiscal hole than we were anticipating being in,” Frome said. “We didn’t have the money to hire, so we laid off basically half of our background investigators. We laid off our recruiter, because we just did not see a position in the near future where we were going to be able to use them to capacity.”
According to Frome, the department has been told to prepare for another $10 million cut to the police budget next year. The assistant police chief credited the “Defund the Police” movement with the cuts to his department.
“For a lot of these people that are choosing to go somewhere else, they spent a lot of months this last summer constantly being yelled at to ‘Quit your job, quit your job.’” Frome said. “That cumulative toll on our officers, it builds up. So in some ways, yes, there is a win by those that would want the police to be defunded.”
The police department’s retention and hiring troubles have been coupled with a spike in crime this year. As The Daily Wire reports:
Mayor Ted Wheeler of Portland spearheaded an effort in June to “increase police accountability and reinvest in black and brown communities.” He proposed over $7 million in shifts from the police bureau, which included dissolving the city’s Gun Violence Reduction Team in favor of seeking ways to “fundamentally re-shape” shooting prevention.
Portland — where rioters recently established the “Red House Autonomous Zone” — almost immediately witnessed a jump in shootings. Though year-to-date shootings had risen 10.8% by May, the months of June, July, August, and September witnessed 96.8%, 186.1%, 195.1%, and 243.8% hikes respectively.