The Portland Police Bureau currently faces a critical staffing shortage. As retirements come in large waves, the bureau faces more than 100 vacancies. Next year, in August 2020, another large retirement is expected to occur. That's why today we're talking about everything recruitment and hiring.
We also listen in on a seasoned officer's conversation with a new recruit.
Welcome to Talking Beat, the podcast for the Portland Police Bureau. We're focusing on thoughtful conversations that we hope will inform and provide you with a small glimpse of the work performed by Portland Police Officers, as well as issues affecting public safety in our city. Here's what's on today's show.
Host: What kind of officers are we looking for?
AC Davis: In terms of an ideal candidate, there really isn't one. We're looking for a wide variety of people. If you're open to new ideas, and looking for a really rewarding, challenging career, you're who we're looking for.
Host: Also, we listen in on a seasoned officer's conversation with a new recruit.
Ofc. Petty: And that's probably the most important part of being a police officer, is having a ton of compassion for people and being able to show it. We all have a role and there's always something to do.
Announcer: This episode of the Talking Beep is brought to you by; through the good work of the Portland Police Sunshine division, officers are able to bring emergency food to people 24/7. Sunshine division also operates two warehouses where community members in need can access free food and clothing. Learn more at sunshinedivision.org.
Announcer: Now onto the show.
Host: The Portland Police Bureau currently faces a critical staffing shortage. As retirements come in large waves, the bureau faces more than 100 vacancies. Next year, in August 2020, another large retirement is expected to occur. That's why today we're talking about everything recruitment and hiring.
Host: I'm joined today by Assistant Chief Chris Davis, and Lieutenant Greg Pashley. Chris oversees the services branch which includes the personnel division. Greg is also assigned to our personal division, and focuses on our hiring efforts. Welcome to both of you.
Lt. Pashley: Yeah, it's great to be here.
AC Davis: Yeah, thanks for having us.
Host: Greg, let's start with you. Tell me about our hiring process.
Lt. Pashley: And I want to keep it real simple, the best way to do it is to go to the website and just look, joinportlandpolice.com. You're going to be presented with an opportunity to apply, there's some yes or no questions that are based on state standards to make sure that the person who's clicking buttons is eligible to be a police officer based on state of Oregon standards. And if you are, then you're asked to do some other things like take a, what we call, a written test. It's a test that gauges basic reading and writing and some basic knowledge, decision making skills. Those tests are available different places throughout the country.
Lt. Pashley: Once you've passed that and are in our system and the system recognizes you as a an eligible candidate, we contact you and you begin taking tests with us. Which are personality, inventory, pre-psychological exam type exams. And it's the entry into the screening process. We get people into background as soon as we can, so that we can start learning all of the good things about our candidates, or we can start deciding if there are things that cause them to be candidates that aren't going to fit into our hiring process further. And we try to get to that as soon as we can.
Lt. Pashley: If someone passes out background, which it takes ... It can take three months, four months to do a background, sometimes a little longer depending on how motivated the candidate is, or depending on how long their life is. A candidate who's 22 years old and hasn't had a lot of life experience is going to have probably a simpler background. Someone who's maybe applying at 35 or 45 and has had a few jobs, has moved around a little bit, that background could take a little bit longer. If you successfully complete our background process, you receive a conditional offer and you proceed to psychological evaluations, medical exam, probably some kind of interview towards the end. And that's the sort of bare bones of the process.
Host: So the length of the process has kind of come up a little bit. Are we doing things to try to streamline it and shorten it without, obviously, losing the quality of it?
Lt. Pashley: We have recently identified some bits and pieces that will probably reduce a candidate's experience now by two months, three months maybe. We've done some things in the last six months that will change the experience a person has if they apply today, compared with if they had applied this time last year.
Lt. Pashley: And so as soon as we can get a name and start connecting with applicants, we start doing that. We've even instituted applicant functions quarterly. So that if you're an applicant with a police bureau at some stage, you can meet us, meet our recruiters. We do a little walking tour of certain parts of the city. We meet with community members in that part of the city to hear about their expectations of the police, usually regarding specific things that are of interest to them, and the part of the community that we happen to be in. And it's another way for us to connect the community to our process really early on, and it's a way for candidates to get a glimpse of us and learn a lot more about what it means to be Portland Police Officer outside of just the hiring process.
Lt. Pashley: It's another way for us to stay connected with people who want to work here, or think they want to work here, and for them to compare us to the other departments where they're applying.
Host: Let's talk about that for a minutes. We're in the same boat as everybody else, right. It's the national law enforcement issue, everybody's trying to recruiter, everybody's going after the same people. What makes this different?
Lt. Pashley: What makes Portland different is we're the biggest city in the state. We are different form everywhere else regionally. And if you start looking for comparable cities on the west coast, all of a sudden you're in Seattle and San Francisco. But the cost of living compared to those other two cities that I mentioned is lower here, our pay is comparable or higher relative to the cost of living. If you're looking to be a police officer in Oregon, we offer the largest department. Honestly, probably the most opportunity, the most variety with regard to working at various precincts.
Lt. Pashley: We had some people recently who have come here to work from the east coast who wanted to work in a big city downtown feel. Well we're the only place in the state that offers that. If you want to work more a neighborhood feel, we have that of course too. And we have all of the other sort of specialties and unique ways of serving as a police officer.
Lt. Pashley: The training facility that we have is tremendous, and is utilized by a lot of regional police departments because it's so great. The amount of formal training you get in your first year is second to none in the state. There's just a ton of reasons.
Lt. Pashley: And when you talk with officers who have recently been hired, they enjoy a certain lifestyle when they get here. There are a lot of things to do. SO they enjoy big city features of restaurants, food. There is kind of a laid-back feel, I think, to this city. And all of the recreation opportunities that are available in the northwest are sort of at your disposal using Portland or the metro area as a launchpad to the coast and to the mountains. And so for lifestyle reasons it's great too.
Lt. Pashley: And then, I don't know exactly what the number is, but I think we're at about fewer than half of the people who actually live in this city now are from Oregon. And so it's a place that people are coming. And I think that's really interesting too, and I think that's one of the things that draws people. You don't have to be from here to work here and serve as a Portland Police Officer. I think it helps if you are, but you don't have to be because it's a destination that is drawing people from all around the west and around the country for some of the things that we've just talked about.
Host: I think Greg's moonlighting at the Tourism bureau.
Host: So Chris, who are we looking for? Who's our ideal candidate? And what are some of the requirements?
AC Davis: In terms of an ideal candidate, there really isn't one. We're looking for a wide variety of people. And if you're, just in general, somebody who has an interest and a passion for public service, who is open to new ideas, and who's looking for a really rewarding, challenging career, you're who we're looking for. And that can take all kinds of different forms. So there's no ideal candidate. We hire people who are right out of college, we hire people who are in their 40s. One of my neighbors who's my age, he's in his late 40s and has already done a whole bunch of other things, was recently hired here as a Portland Police Officer. So we're looking for that variety, and for that diversity of experience, of background, of ethnicity, across the board.
AC Davis: As far as what the requirements are. The state has a few requirements, they're pretty basic. You can't be a convicted felon, you have to be a United States citizen to be certified as a police officer in Oregon. That includes, you can be naturalized, you don't have to have been born here. You can't have anything really in your background that shows that you don't have the moral character, basically, to be a police officer.
AC Davis: Oregon is different than a lot of other states. You know, there's five or six states in the country where all of the background standards to be a police officer are set by the state. Oregon isn't one of them, so that gives us a lot of latitude when we're looking at a candidate to consider, yes if there's something in someone's background that might be an issue, we're going to get into that. We're going to explore that, we're going to find out all about it. But we can also look at in some context We don't have to be as rigid as some other agencies in the country do in making a hiring decisions. And so really, when we look at an applicant, it's not lie we're just applying this mechanical set of standards to somebody. We're looking at the total picture against their suitability basically to be a Portland Police Officer, and to join our team.
AC Davis: And I think that gives us even more opportunity for diversity of experience. And that's not to say that this is a place to come if you have a questionable background. You need to meet our standards to be a police officer, and we have very high standards to get into the organization, and we have high standards for you once you're here. And you have to be able to live up to those. We really are looking for that wide variety of people and experiences and backgrounds to make this the kind of organization we want it to be.
Lt. Pashley: The chief touched on something at the very beginning, which is important to sort of circle back to. Which is the interest in serving. If you come to us with an interest in serving from whatever your background is, whatever your work history is, whatever your education or military service. A key component is your desire to come here and serve. The way that you get to that is very unique. The platform that being a Portland Police Officer gives you to serve in ways that are only limited by your own creativity, are vast. And so I just wanted to sort of get back to, and echo, that sentiment. Because you mentioned it at the beginning of your good description of the so-called ideal candidate.
Lt. Pashley: I talk with new hires during their advanced academy during our equity training that I've been teaching since 2016. And one of the things that we talk about is that the reason that they are there in class and wearing the uniform of a Portland Police Officer, is because they stood up, raised their hand, and said that they wanted to apply their life experience such as it was in whatever way that they can to service of this community. And they get to do that in way that fits in with our directives, and the way that they're trained.
Lt. Pashley: But the freedom to choose how you do that, really day to day, is extraordinary as a police officer. And you can experience that by talking to us a little bit, by going on a ride along. But once you're hired and have the ability to start participating in that training program, officers start to see pretty quickly that they really do get to use their own life experiences in way that is meaningful to them. And we're a big enough agency that you can kind of find niches within this big city. And that's what I've noticed that people do in their first couple years, they realize once their here, oh this is where I want to go, this is where I want to apply my particular interests as a person to my job as a police officer.
Host: So we get a lot of questions about drug use, specifically marijuana use since marijuana is legal in Oregon. Why do we have that restriction on the background?
AC Davis: For a couple of reasons. For one thing, marijuana use is still illegal federally. Marijuana is still a federally scheduled controlled substance that is illegal to possess or use, or sell. So we have to abide by federal laws here in the police bureau. And obviously there are other illegal drugs besides marijuana and we don't tell people what our thresholds are for the use of those other drugs because we don't want people to come in here and just try and tell us that, you know, tailor their answers to the recruitment. But the one exception that we make to that is with marijuana, and we're very open about the fact that you can't be a Portland Police Officer if you've used marijuana within the last year. And that's an absolute.
Lt. Pashley: What I would say for people who are interested in police work, look through the details that are available to you on our police department's website, call the recruiter and ask questions, and apply. If you are a person who is engaged in your community, is doing a good job of work, and has the respect of your colleagues, you think your bosses are going to give you good recommendation. If you're someone who has an active social life, and you have some drug use in your past, don't make the decision for us. If you're interested in working as a police officer, apply, enter into the process, or call the recruiter and ask questions. Because informing yourself personally based on our own life and your own body of work, is probably a better way to do it than to just assume that you're not eligible.
Lt. Pashley: Don't wash yourself out of the process. Call and ask us questions about it, and then submit to the process because we do try to look at the whole person. People have moments in their life when they make mistakes, but what have you done since then? Are you a person who's contributed in the ways that I mentioned earlier, and has been living this productive working life, raising a family and so on. And if you put time and distance between certain activities in your life, it's easy to sit and think, "Hey, that's be kind of interesting, but there's no way they'd pick me." But it's better to apply yourself to the program and see what we think, or what even another department would think, rather than washing yourself.
Host: Yeah. Don't you think that happens a lot though, that fear? I heard about one of our new officers the other day that has three kids, a mother of three children. And I would think that somebody like that would be sitting at home thinking, oh they probably never would want me. I've got ... I couldn't manage this anyway. But she's here.
Host: And then people from other countries that have come here, gotten naturalized, and maybe think, "Well I don't have the experience." Or something like that. Or people who think, I don't have the education, or I couldn't pass the physical maybe.
Lt. Pashley: Yeah, exactly. Call us and ask the questions. Go to joinportlandpolice.com, click on the section where you can contact a recruiter, and get those questions answered for yourself depending on whatever your individual circumstance is.
Lt. Pashley: You know, the other thing that's worth mentioning is if you go to that website and look around, what you'll find is that we have monthly workshops where you can come and meet us. You can come and hear about the process. You can come and meet background investigators and recruiters in person. You can take a look at our training facility. You can go off one-on-one and ask these questions of background investigators before you submit to the process. We're open, and we want people to be able to have questions answered. And so we make ourselves available in as many different ways as we can think of to break down those barriers, to myth bust whatever about our process. Because it's probably a lot more wide open than most people think.
AC Davis: You know one thing I would add too. What we're looking for is the total picture, and a big part of that is did you tell us the truth about it when we asked you. We're pretty good at getting the whole picture of somebody. And as somebody who makes the hiring decisions, one of the things that I look what when I see some negative information in somebody's background, the things I look at are how long ago was it, and did you tell us the truth about it. Because if you're going to come in here, and you're going to disclose something that you did in high school that you're really embarrassed about, and you're really not proud of, one thing that tells me is I can probably count on you to tell us the truth if we employ you here, which is fundamental to our work. We have to be able to trust you, and if you lie to us we can't employ you anymore.
AC Davis: That's really how we use this information. It's not about trying to get negative information so we can kick you out of the process, we just need to know that total picture os we can evaluate the candidate's suitability to work here and do this really important work.
AC Davis: And keep in mind too, moving on from the background investigation of the process. Once you get to a conditional job offer, we do a very comprehensive psychological evaluation. And that for us is a critical part of the process, to evaluate someone's psychological suitability for this job. How resilient are they? How likely are they to be able to maintain their composure under stress?
AC Davis: It's in that psychological testing especially, that we weed out a lot of, you know, because we do get applicants who want to be police officers for all the wrong reasons. And so we don't want those people, and our community does not want those people to be Portland Police Officers. So we use the combination of that background investigation and this really thorough psychological evaluation, which we have the benefit of the physiological evaluation that we use has been validated scientifically, extensively. And so it is shockingly good actually at predicting outcomes.
AC Davis: I guess what I would just say about that is, keep in mind that there's still that psychological test that's critical to determining if somebody's emotional and psychological suitability for this kind of work.
Host: Okay. We're gonna wrap this up by asking you guys to give me your elevator pitch. I'm on the fence, I'm listening to this, sell me.
Lt. Pashley: I know we're supposed to try to sell you, but I would be hesitant to try to sell people. What I would do is invite people. And I think that this is what we have to do. We invite people to take a good hard look at us and get in touch with us personally so that we can really answer your questions. Don't make up your mind about any police job, particularly the Portland Police, based on what you read or what you see. Come and talk to us, meet us, so that you can begin a conversation and really find out for yourself what it's like here.
Host: Come on, Greg. We're the best. That's what you're supposed to say, we're the best.
AC Davis: Everybody knows that already though, right.
AC Davis: What I would say is, I've been a police officer for 25 years. And I would not trade if for the world. This is a job that is really, really challenging. It's different every day, and it's really meaningful work because you get the opportunity to go out and meet people, sometimes on the worst day of their life, and try to make it a little bit better. And you get to help people out, whether it's a simple thing like giving somebody directions on a street corner, or saving somebody's life. You have the opportunity to do all of those things, and it's just such meaningful work.
AC Davis: If you're looking for meaningful work instead of just a job, then this is the place for you and we'd like to talk to you.
Host: So at the Portland Police Bureau we embrace our stereotype so we always end this podcast with asking the same question, what's your favorite donut? Chris.
AC Davis: Oh, chocolate eclairs. Hands down.
Host: Now is that really a donut?
AC Davis: It is to me.
Lt. Pashley: Right now I really am enjoying, I think they're called raised glazed. Is that right? You can almost ... They kind of melt in your mouth. I think it is, it's a raised glazed donut.
Lt. Pashley: Love them.
Host: I'll have to try it. Thank you.
Announcer: We're taking a short break for shameless self promotion.
Announcer: Be sure to follow the Portland Police Bureau on social media. Use the handle @PortlandPolice on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and YouTube.
Announcer: Coming up next, meet some of our police officers in our segment, Up Close.
Host: In this segment we thought it would be fun to have a veteran officer and a newer officer, and let them talk a little bit about what they do and their experience so far, and let you guys listen in.
Ofc. Zaitz: I'm Jordan Zaitz. I've been an officer for 15 years. I currently work at East Precinct as a neighborhood response team officer. So I am still a police officer, I wear a uniform most days. I have a partner. We deal with the community and what their issues are. They come to us, and we kind of help them work through it.
Ofc. Petty: I'm Michelle Petty. I've been here as a police officer for about 14 months, so I'm brand new. I'm still learning how to put my uniform on, but most days I get it right. I am currently phase five as a trainee, which is the last phase in the training process. SO I'm on my own and basically just riding out until the end of probation, which is 18 months long. And I work out of East Precinct on the C shift.
Ofc. Zaitz: So I first met Michelle, she was actually a background investigator for us, and one of our other investigators had encouraged her to come out and ride along. So she could learn what kind of officers we wanted hired, and she could kind of have an idea of personality traits and different things that is best seen in police officers, especially now.
Ofc. Zaitz: So Michelle came out on a couple ride-alongs with me, and holy cow. This woman has done it all. I learned that she has had many a jobs in her short lifetime. She is very smart, very educated, knows a lot. And not in like a bad way, but you do. No. She just has done a lot, which I'll kind of let her tell you about. But it's funny because I could just tell that she had kind of that cop personality, like she would fit in really well as an officer, and she was very well-rounded just through her life experiences. And so I kept telling her, “You're going to end up being a cop.” She's just like, “No I won't. No I won't. I'm just going to be a background investigator.” And I was like, “Alright.” But I'm still thinking.
Ofc. Zaitz: And then I'll never forget when I got the e-mail from her background investigator, and she was completing the hiring process. And I was like, “Haha! I knew it.” And so the day she got sworn in, I told her she owed me a cup of coffee because I told her so.
Ofc. Petty: Yeah, she was right. I didn't even know. I didn't even see it coming. I'm wondering if you applied for me, actually, but I don't know. No.
Ofc. Petty: No, I think a lot that changed for me was just going on those ride-alongs with you. My mom was actually a cop when I was, before I was born actually, and she kind of talked about the job. I was interested, which is kind of why I applied to become a background investigator. But when I went on those ride-alongs with you and kind of saw how you worked, I had this image of cops in my head. Granted I knew some people working around here but I didn't really know what it looked like to be out in a car and working with people. And just seeing the way that Jordan worked and how she has like the biggest heart for everybody that she encounters, and that you can still do that and be in this job. And that's probably the most important part of being a police officer is having a ton of compassion for people and being able to show it.
Ofc. Petty: And so prior to being a background investigator here I was an adult protective service investigator for the state of Washington. Prior to that I was a tri-met bus driver. Prior to that I was a mental health counselor. And I was like, where can I go where I could do all of those jobs in one job. And that is being a police officer. I get to sometimes be involved in elder abuse calls unfortunately, but I have that background. I don't know about driving the bus, but there are big rigs that we have with the bureau so maybe one day I'll drive something big here. And then being a mental health counselor was huge for this job because a lot of people that we encounter in mental health crisis all the time. It's a lot of our calls really.
Ofc. Petty: And so it was amazing just to find something that could tie in almost every part of my background. And I get to use all those things here.
Ofc. Zaitz: See, I knew it. She'd come around.
Ofc. Zaitz: Yeah, one of the things that I've learned, and I think what keeps me going and happy in this job 15 years later, is kind of taking each call. Well you find those calls that I feel like you were the officer that was meant to be there for that call, whether you make a connection with the victim, or the suspect, and you're able to just walk away feeling good because you actual know that you made an impact on that person that day. And those are my favorite ones, and that's what I try to look for each day just to keep me motivated and positive, 'cause it can get ... It can get hard sometimes when all you're seeing is the negative in the city. But there's plenty of good, you just have to have your eyes open to it.
Host: Yeah. We get a lot of questions about female officers and what it takes to be a female officer. Have there been calls that you guys have gone on where somebody has responded to your differently because you're a female?
Ofc. Zaitz: I think so. I think we're able to just have a softer demeanor. People can be more responsive. I mean it can also go the opposite way where people are like, it's a chick, I want nothing to do with her. I think it just kind of depends on how you carry yourself and who that person is. But I definitely have the ability to I think calm people down. I don't get as jacked up as quick sometimes as guys, they can have the testosterone thing going on.
Ofc. Zaitz: But then with that also comes the mommy in me. And I even, I had one time specifically where there was a man who was actually older than me who was not listening to me, and I wanted him to sit on some stairs because he was interfering with a call that we were one. And I told him I was going to count to three and if he didn't sit down I was going to take him to jail for interfering, because that's what he was doing. And I counted to three and he didn't sit down, so he went to jail.
Host: I thought you were going to say he sat down.
Ofc. Zaitz: No.
Ofc. Petty: I thought he was going to sit down like on two and a half for sure.
Ofc. Zaitz: I literally took a grown man to jail for not listening to me when I counted to three.
Host: Michelle, what's your biggest surprise about this job?
Ofc. Petty: Everybody always said, oh, we're brothers, we're sisters, in this job. We're really close and we've got each other’s back. But I never really actually thought that I would think that people really were like my family in this job, and I've only been here for a very short time. Just going through things in my personal life with my mom being sick, and family stuff, I just have people that are constantly checking in and saying, “How are you? I know that stuff's going on for you.” And just really caring about my personal life, and caring about me as a person. And I think that was surprising to me, I didn't expect to get hired and then have what, 900 siblings, you know, or people that I could turn to and that I know have my back.
Ofc. Petty: We rely on each other for our safety all the time, and I think that really drives us closer. And so I think that was surprising to me.
Host: What would you guys say to female applicants, or people who are considering a career in law enforcement of they're feeling not confident about their ability to do it.
Ofc. Zaitz: You know, I think you have to have a certain level of confidence to be able to come into this job as a woman because you are constantly surrounded by men. And so I think if you just come into it and act like one ... Like everybody else, you are no different than anybody. There's times you have to also understand our gender. You know, when we go to certain calls and we know somebody's going to fight, I want the bigger guy up front with them. And I'm not offended when they say, “Hey, Jordan take the back.” Because they know that there's potentially going to be something where they need somebody with more strength. Or you know, whatever.
Ofc. Zaitz: We all have our strengths, and we all have ... So not taking stuff personally I guess, because it can be either size or how we react to things. I personally, I can't even look back and say that I've ever been treated differently because I'm a woman in this job. For me it's been, I feel like I've been treated as everybody else, but I also haven't demanded anything different from anybody because I'm a woman.
Ofc. Petty: I basically second everything that she said. Nobody's ever assigned based off of my gender or anything like that. I feel like people have confidence in us where we're able, and we can do a lot of the hard stuff too. But like Jordan said, there are times where you need somebody that is a bit stronger than you are. But we all have a role, and there's always something to do.
Ofc. Zaitz: You could be anything. You can be black, white. Gold, red, purple, male, female, transgender, anything, and as long as ... I don't think if you make your role as a police officer not about any of that, and you make it about being a police officer and you do your job as a police officer, none of that matters.
Ofc. Petty: Yeah. Nobody here cares. They just want you to be able to do your job and have their back and-
Ofc. Zaitz: If you're a good competent officer, then ... I mean I don't think you get treated any different. But Portland is definitely a more progressive in those aspects I suppose. And we also have a bigger pool, right. We have, you know, 1,000 officers. And so we are much more diverse than other agencies, and so we just kind of have to be. It is the way it is.
Host: At the Portland Police Bureau we like to embrace our stereotypes. So let's start with you, Jordan.
Ofc. Zaitz: Still maple bar.
Host: You didn't even let me ask the question.
Ofc. Zaitz: I knew the question, I knew it was coming.
Host: You didn't even let me ask the question. Michelle what about you?
Ofc. Petty: I do not like maple bars, so you can have all of them. But I think ... You know, just the circle ones that are like the cake donuts with chocolate and peanuts on the top. Those are my jam. They're always left behind too, so I can always find one.
Host: You're right. They're always left behind.
Ofc. Petty: Yeah, they are.
Host: What's with that?
Ofc. Petty: Maybe it's for me. You know some things are just meant to be.
Host: Yeah. Thanks you guys.
Ofc. Petty: Thank you.
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