Portland struggles to rehire police after defunding and riots

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The Portland Police Bureau is struggling to rehire recently rehired police officers after slashing the police budget amid protests following the death of George Floyd.

Only 2 retired police officers out of the 81 who were asked to return to the force by Portland Police Chief Chuck Lovell expressed a willingness to do so and several lashed out in response to the request, according to The Oregonian.

A Portland, Ore., police officer scans the crowd while dispersing protesters, Aug. 21, 2020. 
(Getty Images)

Lovell urged the retired officers who had left the force since August 2020 to return in a letter last month to consider returning saying that they left “at a time of great despair for the Bureau and the City of Portland.”

One of the retired officers who retired last May, Stephanie D. Hudson, responded to the request by calling it “laughable” and said she was offended by a part of the letter referencing the city’s ban on bringing back officers who went against policy by “cooperating with federal agents to attack Portland residents.”

“Your letter indicates that nothing has changed. It simply highlights why those who could leave, did leave. I suspect it will take a decade or more to repair the damage that has been done,” Hudson said. 

PORTLAND, OR – AUGUST 14: Four Portland police officers arrest a protester during a crowd dispersal near Mississippi Avenue on August 14, 2020. 
(Nathan Howard/Getty Images))

The Police Bureau has been struggling to hire officers as quickly as they are losing them and now has 96 vacancies in its budget of 882 sworn officers which represents the lowest authorized strength in almost 30 years.

Shortly after Portland disbanded its gun violence reduction team on July 1, 2020, shootings increased and homicide hit a 30-year high. Portland Police Association President Daryl Turner told Fox News in September 2020 that Portland Mayor and police commissioner Ted Wheeler realized defunding the police force “was a mistake.”

In November 2021, the Portland City Council approved $448,000 to hire back 25 retired officers as part of its fall budget adjustment.

Police officers in Portland were tasked with combating over 100 straight days of violent protests and riots carried out by Antifa and Black Lives Matter activists during the summer of 2020, many of which involved rioters attacking police officers and burning police stations. 

“We’re dealing with rioting at a level and sustained violence that we’ve never seen before,” Turner said last year, adding that morale within the Portland Police Department “is as bad as it’s ever been before.” 

In a statement to Fox News in response to The Oregonian report, a spokesperson for thePortland Police Department said, “The retire/rehire program is an ongoing program. This article refers to those who received letters who had already retired since August of 2020. Many had already moved or gone on to other jobs. This program will continued to be offered to those who are eligible to retire this year.”

Protesters block a police car after the full acquittal verdict of teenager Kyle Rittenhouse in his Wisconsin fatal shootings trial, in Portland, Oregon, U.S. November 19, 2021.
(REUTERS/John Rudoff)

A similar impasse between retired officers and the current police department arose in Austin, Texas, last year where the city council also voted to slash police funding by 30%.

Austin asked about 30 retired officers to come back to the force as the city was shattering its previous homicide record and none of the former officers accepted the officer.

“I am personally offended by your offer,” one former officer wrote in a letter obtained by Fox News in response to the city’s offer of $5,000 plus extra benefits for returning to duty. “I did not leave APD for money. I suspect my peers did not either. No amount of money could make me return. The offer from the chief shows just how out of touch he is with his officers. What we crave is leadership. The one thing that has been consistently withheld.”

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