BEND, OR -- Bend Police Chief Jim Porter presented his budget request to City Council and the Budget Committee Tuesday night. He’s asking for about $250,000 more in the next budget cycle to pay for hiring two more Community Service Officers (CSOs), who cost less than traditional officers and can handle lower level calls. Porter says that would free up fully certified officers for high-priority emergencies. "We’re coming into a summer where we’re expecting record numbers of calls," Chief Porter tells KBND News. "In the first four months of this year, we’re already seeing our mental health calls go up by 36%; we’re already seeing our 911 emergency calls go up by 14% over last year, and last year was a record year; and we’re seeing our overall call rate go up."
Chief Porter says his department handles more calls with less money and fewer officers, compared to other similar agencies in Oregon, "Our budget is anywhere between $6-9 million lower than the comparative budgets for the police agencies that provide service for the city of Medford, the city of Gresham, the city of Hillsboro; those are pretty much our comparables. When we look at our call rates – that means how many calls for service we handle a day – we’re the second highest in the state. Gresham’s the only department with a higher call rate. But then again, Gresham has 13 more officers than I do, a significantly higher budget and a significantly higher crime rate."
In 2015, Bend PD’s response time was about 11 minutes, which is in line with the national average. Chief Porter told Councilors it will likely take close to 13 minutes to respond to calls by 2018. But, he says hiring more more CSOs will help, while keeping costs down. "We try to model ourselves after what is private business doing? What is being innovative? When we look at our product: Every one of our calls for service costs the city of Bend about $250 per call. And, when you go to our comparables, some of the other departments are up around $380-$400 per call. So, we actually deliver a per-call service – if you look at it from the private business sector – at a very, very reduced rate. But, yet, we are still maintaining the quality of calls because you’re seeing the low crime rates." City Council is expected to finalize the city's budget on June 21.
To hear our full conversation with Chief Jim Porter, click HERE or visit our Podcast Page.
Graphics Courtesy Bend Police Department