Portland Can’t Find Police Recruits

By Tim Lyman

In the summer of 1978 some friends and I travelled by motorcycle from Vancouver, B.C. to Spence’s Bridge, B.C. We had stopped in Hope, B.C., the town that would become famous next year for being the site of the movie “First Blood,” to stock up on some forgotten supplies and I let a friend ride my motorcycle for a while while I rode in the sole car on the trip. The local police must have thought we were some sort of bike gang, because as we were leaving town, the car was pulled over. The cop couldn’t have been a day over 19 and was, as would soon be obvious, scared witless of us. When the driver of the car leaned over to open up the glove box to show the cop the proof of insurance he had requested, the cop panicked and drew his gun. The driver and I both instantly froze. We froze because we did not want to die. We instinctively knew that any other action might lead to death at the hands of this cop.

In those days you rarely saw a group of motorcycles out together unless they were in a gang. Accountants experiencing their mid life crises had yet to discover the motorcycle. The cop in question didn’t know if we really were some bike gang on our way to or from criminal acts, or just a bunch of kids out for a weekend ride.

No cop ever knows the nature of any citizen he pulls over in a traffic stop. A bunch of scummy looking guys on motorcycles might be just a bunch of innocent kids and a clean cut white guy in a nice suit driving a well maintained late model car might have a trunk full of cocaine.

We hold our police to incredibly high standards and then rake them over the coals every time some citizen’s actions lead to their demise. A few years back a crack addict attempted to flee the scene of a traffic stop and started dragging the cop who had pulled her over along with her car. The cop faced the horrible choice of likely being dragged to death or using deadly force on the driver. The cop shot the driver and she died.

The result? Pastor Roy Tate, a race baiting, cut rate, Al Sharpton wannabe (later accused of stealing church funds and sexually abusing women he “counseled” by his church’s bishop and elders) jinned up a storm of protests against the officer in question, including rallies at the state capital and protests in front of the officer’s home. The good reverend, of course, had done nothing for the shooting victim while she was alive, but wasn’t going to miss an opportunity to ride her corpse to local prominence. In an attempt to pacify the black community the officer in question was suspended without pay for 900 hours and brought to trial (found not guilty) against the recommendation of a grand jury.

Every time a Portland cop is forced to shoot someone to save his own life it is not merely enough to investigate the incident, the officer must be raked over the coals even if found guilty of no wrong doing. Some people think that it is never necessary for an officer to draw his gun or to shoot someone. Those people are fools.

This week came word that the Portland Police Department is finding it impossible to find recruits to fill open positions. The police PR hack says it’s because of low pay and long hours. Honest cops may not get rich, but they are decently paid and have one hell of a benefit and retirement package. Ask the rank and file and they’ll tell you the real reason Portland can’t find recruits – in a city that won’t stand by its cops, is it any wonder so few men and women want to be cops?

  • Jerry

    I agree with your analysis 100%. Who wants to work for some organization that will hang them out to dry just for defending themselves?

    • dean

      Analysis? Where is the analysis? Does Tim have any data to confirm his thesis? How many “rank and file” has he interviewed?

      Sorry…but this is just opinion based on not much.

      I’m just guessing here, but I imagine the recruitment problem is not lack of candidates, but lack of QUALIFIED candidates. And to pretend pay has nothing to do with this is naiive. Read your Econ 101.

  • devietro

    I feel uniquely qualified on this issue because I am currently in the middle of the PPB hiring process. I can assure you that while Portland is having a very difficult time finding qualified applicants they are not alone in this problem. Las Vegas metro PD is currently offering a large signing bonus for anybody who completes their process, Anchorage Alaska (one of the highest paid PD’s nationwide is running nationwide recruiting campaigns as well as other incentives.

    • Crawdude

      Rosie lowered the standards last year, qualified isn’t a very high hurdles anymore. Sounds like our schools must have been successful in dummying down the kids, perhaps a bit too successful 🙁

      Ever see the movie “Idiocracy”? We may be heading that way………

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  • Rupert in Springfield

    Ever since Rodney King it has been readily apparent to anyone that there are people out there who will turn the most flagrant of violations on its head to gain money, or power, at the expense of the police. How many times was the whole Rodney King tape shown on TV? Once or twice, and every police officer knew that. The edited version, where we miss King jumping out of the car and charging the officers? We saw it endlessly, it fit the bad cop/racist cop tagline. We all know what went on from there, a trial, the renaming of Simi Valley to “All White Simi Valley” the riots etc.

    Aspiring race hustlers see these events as opportunities. Al Sharpton is now seen regularly on CNN news, all past sins forgiven, and making a pretty good living. All from his ascendancy through the Twanna Brawly scam on to the race riots he started. Deaths and lawsuits followed and yet he seems to have paid no price and only gained. Is it any wonder there are others out there who want to emulate this ludicrous rise to power and don’t see anything wrong with doing it on the destroyed lives and dead bodies of others? Sharpton was forgiven, why wouldn’t they be?

    So why would any police officer take the job? It pays fairly well, but is the risk worth the reward? That aspiring officer knows going in that he will be trained and has to handle every situation with the utmost professionalism and if he doesn’t, he will pay a high price. What that would be officer also knows is that there are others out there to exact that high price from him at the slightest opportunity. They are professionals as well, and they are quite good at their job as we all have seen.

    • dean

      I have personal experience both as one who once aspired to be a cop, and one who was on more than one occasion on the wrong end of cop abuse. I was in a Chicago street gang, and an interesting thing is that a number of gang members later became cops. Why? To serve and protect? No…because they were people who enjoyed inflicting violence on others. It was a power trip. One in particular, whose dad was a cop, was known wthin our gang as a sadist with a baseball bat. He is now a Chicago cop. I knew a couple of neighborhood kids who were shot in the back by one rogue local cop. He got a wrist slap. Lets not be naive about it.

      Cops have a tough job, no question. They need good judgement, courage, fast reactions, AND a lot of sensitivity. Plus they have to put up with working in a bureacracy. Not easy to find these traits in people, and in an age of cell phone cameras they have to assume any arrest action is going to be on tape. That is the nature of their business, just as politicians are discovering. The revolution is being televised.

      As for the pay….its adequate. Considering the demands and inherent risks….I’m amazed anyone other than adreneline junkies put in for it.

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