Police union fears for public safety amid Gresham PD staffing shortage

Author: Mike Benner

GRESHAM, Ore. (KGW) — Gresham police officers reporting for duty Thursday are aware of something most people in the community probably are not aware of.

“You have a lot of officers leaving law enforcement in general, quitting, saying it’s not worth it,” Thomas Walker said.

Walker, president of the Gresham Police Officers’ Association, told KGW that the Gresham Police Department (GPD) is currently down about a dozen of its 127 allotted officers. Walker said even more are expected to leave in the coming months.

“You have officers that are going to other organizations in other cities and counties that are law enforcement friendly,” he said.

This leaves the department stretched thin in patrol and investigations.

Walker said GPD plans to plug the holes by disbanding the Neighborhood Enforcement Team, traffic unit, and transit division at the start of the new year. Officers who typically work on those specially-trained teams will be reassigned to patrol and investigations.

Walker said he believes public safety in Gresham will suffer. He points to the work of the traffic unit and the Neighborhood Enforcement Team that handles homeless camps and abandoned RVs.

“When you have those areas we have to deal with, the fact that it draws crime, property crimes, drug use, assaults, and sometimes homicides,” Walker said. “If we don’t have people out there doing active DUI enforcement, we know that can be disastrous. DUIs kill people.”

“Our city leadership recognizes the impact this will have,” Gresham Police Department Chief Travis Gullberg added.

Gullberg said the staffing shortage he is facing is not unique to his department. He said it’s happening nationwide.

“What we’re doing is realigning our approaches, our staffing to ensure we’re providing the best service possible to the community and at the same time address the immediate community need around violence,” Gullberg said.

Gullberg said he plans to improve staffing by focusing on recruiting new officers and retaining current staff.

“This will pass,” he said. “I’m confident we’ll get back to full staffing.”

Until then, Walker fears the worst. He said the Mental Health Response Team he is in charge of may be eliminated. He said school resource officers may need to be pulled from area schools.

“It’s going to be problematic and things are going to look a lot different around here,” Walker said.

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