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Police union: Survey says officer morale, faith in leadership low

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UPDATE: Mayor Charlie Hales says union reacting to needed changes


The union representing Portland police officers has released a survey showing low morale among its members because of low staffing levels, a lack of confidence in police bureau leadership, and increasing gang violence.

"Without a doubt, low morale amongst the rank-and-file in the Police Bureau has a significant, negative impact on our work within our community. We’re frustrated because insufficient staffing prevents us from proactively engaging the public, proactively preventing crime, and from investigating and solving crimes expeditiously," says Portland Police Association President Daryl Turner, a police sergeant.

Mayor Charlie Hales, who is in charge of the Portland Police Bureau, blamed the response on needed changes he and Police Chief Larry O'Dea are making to the bureau.

"I picked Larry O'Dea as chief of police because he’s a change agent. When you make change, you make waves," says Hales, citing changes from training to de-escalation confrontations and a body camera program that will begin soon.

"Chief O’Dea has my full confidence and support as he continues that work. I expect there will be occasional controversy and resistance as he re-shapes the Portland Police Bureau to meet our community’s expectations," Hales says.

According to the PPA, among other things, the survey found:

• 96% rate overall morale at the Police Bureau as poor or below average.

• 97% agree or strongly agree that low staffing levels are negatively impacting morale at the Police Bureau.

• 79% believe that there is a high or very high relationship between Police Bureau staffing levels and crime rates.

• 89% do not believe that the Chief’s five-shift configuration will resolve the Police Bureau’s patrol staffing shortage.

• 93% do not believe that the Chief’s outside rotational support policy will resolve the Police Bureau’s patrol staffing shortage.

• 85% rate the Police Bureau's leadership as poor or below average.

• 88% do not believe that the Police Bureau’s leadership is responsive to the input and recommendations of rank-and-file PPA members.

• 85% do not believe that the Police Bureau rewards strong job performance.

• 80% would not recommend employment with the Police Bureau to a friend or colleague.

The survey was released as Mayor Charlie Hales, who is the Police Commissioner, is preparing the ask the City Council to approve incentives to help fill 40 vacant officer positions and additional positions expected to become vacant due to retirements in the near future.

"Without a doubt, low morale amongst the rank-and-file in the Police Bureau has a significant, negative impact on our work within our community. We’re frustrated because insufficient staffing prevents us from proactively engaging the public, proactively preventing crime, and from investigating and solving crimes expeditiously," says Turner.

According to the PPA, 82 percent of its members responded to the survey. The full survey results can be read at www.surveymonkey.com/results/SM-RB666KLQ/.