PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) — Portland, Oregon, Mayor Ted Wheeler is planning to propose spending $3.9 million to add 28 unarmed public safety specialists to the Police Bureau.
That would bring the total to 62, which is more than three times the current number, The Oregonian/OregonLive reported. Wheeler said the goal is to free up sworn police to handle higher priority calls.
The Police Bureau is confident it can fill the jobs, noting that 89 people have applied. The additional funding also would cover 14 more vehicles for the public safety specialists.
The specialists handle 33 types of calls, including cold stolen vehicle calls, cold theft calls, calls about recovered stolen vehicles or other property, suspicious subjects, vandalism and non-injury accidents. They also help police with traffic detours, conduct searches for missing persons and attend neighborhood meetings.
Earlier this year, the city budget office recommended an outside evaluation of their work. An evaluation has since found in an average shift, a public safety specialist can save 4.6 hours of patrol officer time through the calls the specialist can handle.
“Portland would do well to significantly increase the number of PS3s (public safety specialists), to expand their working hours, and to grow the calls/tasks they are trained and authorized to handle,” the review said.
The first public safety specialists were hired in June 2019. They have 200 hours of training during a five-week academy and ride with a field training officer for four to eight weeks.
The mayor’s request is expected to be released Tuesday as part of his requested city budget for the next fiscal year.