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Talking Beat - The Portland Police Bureau is hiring officers.

Blog Post
New Police Officers holding badges after being sworn in.
A conversation about recruitment and hiring with Chief Chuck Lovell and PPB's Recruitment Sergeant Trevor Tyler. We receive a lot of questions about our recruitment and hiring efforts and our plans to build the bureau back up in regard to staffing. We hope this provides some good information.
Published
A conversation about recruitment and hiring with Chief Chuck Lovell and PPB's Recruitment Sergeant Trevor Tyler. We receive a lot of questions about our recruitment and hiring efforts and our plans to build the bureau back up in regard to staffing.

Transcript:

Sgt. Kevin Allen:
Thanks for joining us for the Portland Police Bureau's Talking Beat. This is public information officer, Sergeant Kevin Allen.

Sgt. Kevin Allen:
Today on the Talking Beat, Terri Wallo-Strauss, of our strategic communications unit, has a conversation about recruitment and hiring with Chief Chuck Lovell and PPB's recruitment sergeant, Trevor Tyler.

Sgt. Kevin Allen:
We receive a lot of questions about our recruitment and hiring efforts and our plans to build a bureau back up in regard to staffing. We hope this provides some good information. Enjoy the show.

Terri Wallo-Strauss:
I'm glad you both are here today because I think you both bring a lot of knowledge. Trevor, did you know that the chief was the first recruitment Sergeant in the last, right?

Chief Chuck Lovell:
Yeah. The only.

Sgt. Trevor Tyler:
I love it. It's big shoes to fill.

Terri Wallo-Strauss:
Let's recap for our listeners who may not be in the weeds of our staffing like we are. The Bureau lost about 170 sworn members since July 2020, and that was due to retirements and resignations. I'm not going to put an exact number on it because it changes almost every day. But right now, we're in the upper seven hundreds and that's total sworn staff. It's important to remember, that's not officers, that's from the chief on down through all our ranks.

Terri Wallo-Strauss:
And then we have a considerable amount of officers who haven't been trained and are waiting to go on patrol. We'll round up and say we have about 100 vacancies right now and more retirements are expected this summer.

Terri Wallo-Strauss:
Chief, after that little history, I don't want to spend too much time looking back, but I want to clear up how we got here and what's changed in our hiring and where we're going.

Chief Chuck Lovell:
Well, we always had vacancies. We've had those for some time, but when we took the budget cut in 2020, we essentially lost the money that we would use to hire people. We knew we weren't going to have the budget to bring people on board. One of the moves we made at that time was to lay off some of our background folks, because we knew we weren't going to be hiring and we weren't going to need as many as we had in the past. That is something that set us back a little bit on hiring and now we're in the process of hiring new backgrounders to fill that void.

Chief Chuck Lovell:
But we did have a recent city council vote. That was a 5-0 vote, which is really a big deal on a package that included more resources for police. I'm very happy about that. And now we're looking at ways where we can bring people on board, get them trained through DPSST. We've got the retire-rehire program restarting to maybe bring back some folks who would otherwise be retiring. I think those are the things we're looking at in the future. I think for us really having a fully functioning personnel unit with a great Sergeant like Trevor and fully staffed on backgrounders are going to be a big boost to our efforts.

Terri Wallo-Strauss:
And that brings me to you Trevor.

Sgt. Trevor Tyler:
Yes. Ma'am.

Terri Wallo-Strauss:
Nice lead-in chief. You walked into this with a big assignment. What did you start doing first?

Sgt. Trevor Tyler:
Well, I think the first thing was just take an assessment of where we were at. To be able to start moving forward as opposed to start jumping, you want to have vision of where we want to go and I think all of us want to get back to a place where we're fully staffed and on a regular basis. Every shift at every precinct has got the resources that they need for the mission that's in front of them. Taking an assessment of where all the precincts were at and what we could do in our office to be able to start helping bolster those precinct assignments was definitely priority number one.

Terri Wallo-Strauss:
We have actually been in the spot before. Maybe we haven't been as low staffing as we have, our numbers are the lowest they have been in the last 30 years, but we've been in places where we've had these groups that are all hired around the same time and then they retire at the same time. I'm old enough to remember where we tried to hire 80 people in a short amount of time. So it's not unheard of.

Sgt. Trevor Tyler:
Op 80's quoted quite often right now, right? Is that's the mission before us and because it has been accomplished before, there is a lot of optimism in our office that we're going to be able to accomplish that mission again.

Terri Wallo-Strauss:
How do you recruit in a pandemic?

Sgt. Trevor Tyler:
It is definitely nuanced. I think that we are going to be taking advantage of a lot of the social media platforms that we have in the past historically. But then we need to go to places where we know that we have a high likelihood of success, colleges, military places, the people that are looking for the next step in their life. We want one of those next steps for them to be an opportunity in the Portland Police Bureau. People that have an enthusiasm to serve people that are eager to get an experience that is unlike anything else that they will ever experience and that's what they can find here.

Terri Wallo-Strauss:
That leads me to ask you chief, who's your ideal candidate?

Chief Chuck Lovell:
I think, Trevor mentioned an important word and it's serve and service. I think really we want people that want to come serve the community of Portland, the city of Portland. And I think come into this work and thinking about the service piece is key and we have an enforcement role that's for sure, but there's a service component to it. That's very important.

Chief Chuck Lovell:
I think right now the important message for folks is this is not the easiest time to come into this profession, but it might be one of the most important times to be in this profession because there's a lot of change occurring now and on the horizon. And we want people who are committed to being flexible, seeing that change, being part of that change, the change that they want to see in policing and in the community.

Terri Wallo-Strauss:
Give me your sales pitch, Trevor.

Sgt. Trevor Tyler:
Well, I'll tell you what, there's a great novel that I think every one of us was assigned to read in high school called The Tale Of Two Cities. And in that we learned that it was the best of times and it was the worst of times. And I think within the Portland Police Bureau, it's going to be the best of times and the worst of times.

Sgt. Trevor Tyler:
It's the best of times because I get to come to work every single day and be around people that are committed and on point and on mission with me. It's the worst of times right now because I think historically in America, it's a really difficult time to be a police officer. I think the best thing that we can do to people that are coming into this profession is let them know, "Heads up. It's a hard time to be a police officer, but it's still an absolute worthy profession and you will find a depth and a resiliency that is never going to be found anywhere else."

Sgt. Trevor Tyler:
And just like the chief said, this is our moment. What do you want your life to be about? Do you want your life to be about dollars or do you want your life to be about making change? And I think that this change that we can be a part of right now is going to be so meaningful and impactful for the city for years to come, that they're going to talk about in books one day in a history book, they're going to talk about how this was a moment where the Portland Police Bureau could paint what the next chapter was about and I am excited to read that chapter and I want to be a part of making that chapter happen.

Chief Chuck Lovell:
No, that's awesome. I think, to really piggyback on what Trevor said, I mean, this is an important time. I think people want to do work that matters and I think that's important to a lot of people. And I think probably at no time in my 20 years in Portland at the police bureau, is there a time where I think it matters more than now. I think that there's an opportunity for us to take some good steps forward as a city and I think if we get the right people on board, we have the right attitude and we commit to it in a collaborative way with our partners and with other city officials, we can really make a difference for the city. So I think right now is an important of a time as I can remember.

Terri Wallo-Strauss:
Well, not to be Negative Nellie here, but tell me about some of the barriers and tell me about how you're going to overcome some of the barriers. How about that?

Sgt. Trevor Tyler:
Sure. I think honesty is the best way forward. I think that right now, just like the chief talked about, we've got a city council now that is showing their support. However, I think it's important for our members to recognize that Rome wasn't built in a day and these changes, although they're important and necessary, they are going to take a little bit of time.

Sgt. Trevor Tyler:
I equate it to, there's now funding for us, right? And if we are trying to go and buy a pair of shoes, we don't get to just go into a store and purchase the pair of shoes. We now have the funding for more officers, but it is going to take time to be able to hire, train, equip, and get them out to the street.

Sgt. Trevor Tyler:
I think it's important for our members to know... That we still have here, that there is help coming. It's just going to take a little while to develop that help. And they're going to play a necessary role in helping develop those officers that are going to be coming and staffing the street.

Terri Wallo-Strauss:
Well, you open the door to training there. I don't know which one of you wants to talk about that. Again, I don't think people are in the weeds and really understand how long our training process is and what's involved. You want to talk about that, Chief?

Chief Chuck Lovell:
Yeah. I think starting out for folks, the first step for just about all the officers coming into this profession is a stop at DPSST down in Salem to get their basic training done. As DPSST has their staffing issues, budget issues, and they have to accommodate the whole state, they're really seeing some pressure on having classes, rolling out full classes to get folks in and through the academy. We're working really closely with them to make sure that people we hire can get into and through the academy in a timely manner.

Chief Chuck Lovell:
After that's over, there's still the 18-month probation, too, that we have to get people through. We have to have the right amount of coaches. We have to have the right staffing at our training division to provide advanced academy training and such. It's definitely a long haul to get someone from the time they apply to the time they're off probation and a fully-functional Portland police officer.

Terri Wallo-Strauss:
If I'm listening to this and I'm a candidate, what do I do? Let's just cut to the chase.

Sgt. Trevor Tyler:
Right now, one of the things that we want to make available, is just that number one interfacing portal that we have.

Sgt. Trevor Tyler:
Good news is that once you've gotten through that interfacing portal and have actually filled out the application, we're hopeful that we're going to be able to reach out and actually have one of our recruiters talk to you very soon so that you're not waiting indefinitely. You're actually having that personal contact and that personal touch that we're going to bring and that's what's going to set us apart, is that you're not just going to come and be a number you're going to come and you're going to be a part of the bureau family. That's the hope.

Sgt. Trevor Tyler:
With these new background investigators that we've got, I think that's going to be a reality. It's that we're actually going to be able to have the staffing that is necessary to be able in a timely manner, vet all of these new applicants, of which we are still getting many, in a quicker fashion, which will be because that will then matriculate into officers that are being able to be put on the street much sooner than otherwise would be possible.

Terri Wallo-Strauss:
I apply and I have to take a test, right?

Sgt. Trevor Tyler:
You do. During the course of the background investigation before it's complete, you're going to have to take a test. It's called the NTN, which is recognized across the nation. You're going to take that test. You're going to receive a score that is necessary to be able to proceed. And once you've gotten that piece done, you're going to be assigned to one of our background investigators.

Sgt. Trevor Tyler:
That background investigator is going to ask you to complete a form called a PHQ, a personal history questionnaire. It's going to ask for a variety of pieces of information. We don't want to know where you've lived, who you've lived with, your associates, your friends. We need to know a variety of background of what has made you, you, right? And why have those experiences brought you to a place where you're going to be a viable officer for the for the streets of Portland.

Sgt. Trevor Tyler:
Once that is done, once you've gotten through the background investigation, we have a couple of other things that we want to make sure that we've vetted to the best of our ability.

Sgt. Trevor Tyler:
A psychological evaluation, you're going to go and meet with one of our professional psychologists. They're going to ask you a variety of questions that are going to be built off of your PHQ. They're going to look at the life that you've lived and they want to make sure that you are a good decision-maker. That's one of the keynotes of being a police officer is that we want people that are making good decisions in their own life, because we're asking for them to make huge, gravitational decisions for other people.

Sgt. Trevor Tyler:
Once you've gotten through the psychological evaluation, we're going to have you sent to go do a medical test. We want to ensure that your body is in good working order and are able to physically do the demands of the job.

Sgt. Trevor Tyler:
Once that's all been accomplished, we submit that entire packet all the way up through the chain of command, where we have a variety of levels, both sergeant, captain, lieutenant, assistant chief, and then, chief, make sure that this is actually somebody that we want to be a part of our organization. There are many layers and a lot of litmus tests that are going to be passed to ensure that this is somebody that we actually want to be able to serve in our ranks.

Sgt. Trevor Tyler:
Once that's accomplished, we get them to come inside, we swear them in, and then just like the chief said, we, we hopefully send them off to DPSST in a timely manner.

Terri Wallo-Strauss:
And to say that we've actually taken a look at that process and I know that we've tried to take out gaps and make it as efficient as possible, but it's still a process. I think where we get the candidates that will be successful police officers, as well.

Sgt. Trevor Tyler:
I think it's really necessary, right? There's a huge expectation in our community that we have people that are going to, again, be really good decision-makers, so it's important that we make really good, and sometimes lengthy decision, in the effort of bringing them on board because we don't want to bring people in that are going to be bad decision-makers that are going to represent us in a negative way.

Terri Wallo-Strauss:
Chief, there's also an expectation that we build a diverse workforce, as well.

Chief Chuck Lovell:
Yeah and that's important. We want to a workforce and an organization that reflects the community. I think you have to, like Trevor said, go to places where you're likely to find that diversity. That's a challenge here in Oregon in a lot of ways, too. I think we have to be mindful of places and arenas and relationships too, that we can leverage to find diversity. I think as long as I've been here, I've heard, "We want more diversity. We want more diversity." And we've had varying degrees of success of bringing on that diversity, but I think you have to be very mindful of where you go to actually to contact people. And sometimes it's not the traditional places you've gone in the past, the job fairs, the colleges, sometimes there might be affinity groups or online forums or places like that, where you can really reach out and make some connections.

Terri Wallo-Strauss:
What do you say to our community that's listening to us? How can they help us?

Chief Chuck Lovell:
Well, I think first and foremost, one, it's important for them to know that we want to be fully-staffed. We want to have good people working here, serving the people in the community. If you know someone who's interested, please, definitely have them look into our website, have them contact someone who might work at the police bureau or someone they know. We do want to have people, too, who are from Portland and who are familiar with the Portland community, too. We want to expand our efforts, but not lose sight of the fact that we do want people from the community working here, as well.

Sgt. Trevor Tyler:
Absolutely. I'm born and raised here in the city of Portland. It was my dream to come and be able to serve my community and I'm thankful for that opportunity. I think that every time that every officer gets into a conversation with somebody, where it's a meaningful conversation, I don't think that it is beyond the realm of possibility, and honestly should probably be one of the things that we do is talk about why we are here. What is it that we're here? Because it's more than a paycheck. It's that we actually a get to contribute to the overall livelihood of the people that we work around.

Sgt. Trevor Tyler:
I think that we are in the community every single day, every single demographic gets touched by officers every single day. To equip our officers with just remembering the bullet points of what makes this job so great is so essential. We have a four-day work week, that's incredible. We have amazing health benefits. We have a pension, we have a really great compensation for the work that we do. There's a variety of things that I think are really incredible about this job. We haven't even gotten into the realm of, we actually make a difference.

Sgt. Trevor Tyler:
It's not just about showing up every day, it's that we are going to get an opportunity to intrinsically change somebody's lives, hopefully in a positive way. I think that's a really meaningful thing to be able to share and hopefully be able to be a part of.

Chief Chuck Lovell:
You get to do some work that has purpose and meaning. I mean, we see people in such a variety of different situations doing this work and you have the opportunity to give a little bit of yourself and help them. I think a lot of people I talk to who want to come into this profession or are in this profession, it's because they want to help people at the end of the day. And I think this is a great place to do it.

Terri Wallo-Strauss:
I'm going to say why Portland? I mean, I won't mention any other city, but why Portland?

Chief Chuck Lovell:
I think it matters to me. I always wanted to work somewhere where it was a challenge. You could go work at a smaller place or some place that has less calls or is easier or is different in some way or another. But to me, I wanted to be somewhere where there was purpose and meaning and I felt like my work and my presence was making a difference. And I think, here locally, Portland is the place to do it.

Chief Chuck Lovell:
Also, I think it's important for people to realize we're a changing agency. We've been making changes for the last decade plus. We've been working with the Department of Justice through our settlement agreement. A lot of the things that we've done in the last 10 years have really moved us forward in 21st century policing. We've got some of the best training and I think it's important for people to know that we're an agency that is constantly evolving and looking to change and get better. I think some of the things you'll see us rolling out this year will continue to show that.

Sgt. Trevor Tyler:
Just to piggyback on that. I think size is a difference for us, as well. With size comes opportunity. And I think that a variety of opportunities that are not going to be afforded, officers at smaller agencies are going to be afforded here. Although some of those opportunities have maybe shrunk a little bit, I believe that the growth on the horizon is tremendous.

Sgt. Trevor Tyler:
I think that right now, intervening and getting into this agency is going to be ideal because you're going to be able to be the ground floor of opportunity. It's like the stock market of 2008, if you will. I know we all remember that. It took a nose dive there in 2008 and my friends that took their money in 2008 are still paying the price for it. However, those that stayed in and invested in, they have benefited from the skyrocketing effect. I believe that we are on the precipice of a skyrocketing effect, especially in the city of Portland.

Chief Chuck Lovell:
I think it's worthwhile to mention, too, that we're not talking sworn officer opportunities, too, we now have public safety support specialist who are unarmed out serving the community and we have a host of professional staff jobs too, that are non-sworn, serving and supporting the police bureau and those jobs are available. Also, those are jobs we want to fill with good people, as well.

Terri Wallo-Strauss:
You talk about recruiting others, but how did you get here? And were there things along your career that has impacted you to become the person that you are today?

Sgt. Trevor Tyler:
Shameless plug, our cadet program was one of the most influential things that brought me here. I got to be a cadet for the better part of four years and that was incredible. Being able to still go to school and pursue my education, but at the same time, be able to dip my toe into what the police world looked like.

Sgt. Trevor Tyler:
But I do recall one call where I was in north Portland working a night shift, and we got a call of a young child that was found outside of a motel along Airport Way. He was in his pajamas, he was deaf, he was blind and he was mute and he was terrified. I remember getting there and the manager was like, "Ah, we don't know what to do. We believe that maybe this child belongs in our hotel, but we don't know. One of our nighttime janitors just found this guy."

Sgt. Trevor Tyler:
I remember holding this young boy's hand and he was just utterly terrified. I was like, "All right. What we're going to do is we're going to start knocking on every single door in this hotel, because I believe that this child belongs in this hotel." And I just held this boy's hand and I had a couple of other officers come and we went and knocked on every single door. One of the last doors that we knocked on, this was where this boy belonged. His parents let us know that he's been sleepwalking lately. He had come out of the room, he had gone down the hallway by himself in the middle of the night. It was incredible to watch as his mother came and held her son, it was watching that transition of, this boy was terrified, to this person was home.

Sgt. Trevor Tyler:
Recognizing that that was something that we got to play a part in, that boy's story could have ended any number of ways that night, but it ended with reconciliation with this family. That is the goal. A lot of our calls that we go to, there's hardship and there are things that are uncertain, but goal and our hope is always for reconciliation and is for hope for the next part of every person's life. That's incredible job that I get to be a part of every day.

Terri Wallo-Strauss:
Trevor, joinportlandpolice.com. What's your last pitch out there? I'm listening. I'm on the edge.

Sgt. Trevor Tyler:
Well, I'd like for you to jump in. We are ready and willing and excited for you to come be a part of this team and see exactly why so many of us want to do this day in and day out.

Sgt. Trevor Tyler:
I think the opportunities of being able to be on ridealongs is hopefully going to come back soon as we face the challenges of the world around us. But I think that's one of the best ways to be able to experience and recognize why this is such a beneficial job, is to be able to view it through the eyes of an officer that is responding to calls so that you can share in both the joy of service and the excitement of the unknown. We don't know what every day brings to us and that's one of the best and biggest appeals to this job is that one day will never look like the next. There is going to be a variety of experiences that you're going to be able to have and it will be a cornucopia of experiences and that's what you want at the end of your life, it's to be able to have a variety of experiences that are going to make you who you are.

Terri Wallo-Strauss:
We always end our podcast by embracing our stereotypes and chief, I'm not going to ask you what your favorite donut is, I know it's jelly. That's so messy. I don't even want to go there, but Trevor I'm so curious what your favorite donut is.

Sgt. Trevor Tyler:
I'm a maple bacon bar guy all the way, and I like it from a variety of donut shops, but I must say that Joe's Donuts out in Sandy's going to be number one. Non-sponsored by this podcast.

Chief Chuck Lovell:
Not a paid sponsor.

Terri Wallo-Strauss:
Thanks for coming. You guys.

Sgt. Trevor Tyler:
You're welcome. Thanks.

Chief Chuck Lovell:
Thanks for doing this.

Sgt. Trevor Tyler:
Oh man. This is great.

Sgt. Kevin Allen:
Thanks for listening to The Talking Beat. Do you have a question for us? You can call and leave a message on our dedicated voicemail line at 971-339-8868. Or send us an email to Talking Beat at portlandoregon.gov.

Sgt. Kevin Allen:
If you enjoyed this episode, please share it with your friends. More episodes can be found at our website, portlandoregon.gov/police/podcast.