BEND, OR -- Bend Police participated in the first statewide job fair hosted by the Department of Public Safety Standards and Training (DPSST), over the weekend in Salem. Chief Jim Porter tells KBND News Bend is just part of a nationwide officer shortage. "We have been facing a shortage of officers for the last 24 months. Presently, we have three officers in the academy, we have five officers in various stages of field training and we have six openings, potentially seven openings by the end of the month, that we’re trying to fill."
More than four-dozen city, county, state, tribal, university and federal agencies took part in the two-day job fair. DPSST says those agencies need to hire more than 500 employees to fill both sworn and non-sworn positions, statewide.
Chief Porter cites a number of reasons for his department's vacancies. In Bend, typical retirements by long-time officers are now coupled with younger cops changing careers early. He says that's because the job is harder than it used to be. "We’re seeing our officers facing challenges they’ve never had to face in their career before. One officer, just this last week, he covered five completed suicides, three of them with firearms, in a one-week period in Bend. That is a lot, a lot of trauma for one person to carry with them."
He says negative publicity surrounding law enforcement in other parts of the country is also pushing some to choose not to go into the field. But, in Bend, there's another big hindrance to recruiting: the region's tight housing market. "We find very good officers, we actively recruit them, and then they say, ‘sorry Chief, we’ve looked it over and looked at houses.’ One of them actually spent an entire week in Bend, looking for a house, spent time downtown talking to people to see what kind of police department we were to see if he wanted to join us. And then he came back and said, ‘after a week, Chief, I could not find someplace that I could put my family in, that I feel comfortable renting.’"
So, BPD is trying to entice potential officers with an attractive recruiting package, including help with moving expenses. "Presently, for a lateral police officer – that means an officer that’s already certified and can work in the state of Oregon – we’re offering a $6,000 signing bonus. We’re also offering, in addition to that, a week’s worth of sick leave once they’re here, and a week’s worth of vacation. So, even with those high number of incentives, what I’m hearing directly from two officers we actively recruited – both of them called me back and said, ‘Chief, I’m sorry. I’ve looked it over, I cannot afford to buy a house in Bend and maintain the lifestyle where I presently am.’"