Courtesy Department of Public Safety Standards and Training
SALEM — Oregon’s public safety training agency wants to expand its facility.
Eriks Gabliks, director of the Department of Public Safety Standards and Training, says increasing enrollment in public safety training may justify building a new dormitory wing at its campus in Salem.
DPSST trains and certifies the state’s police, parole and probation, corrections officers and 911 dispatchers.
The agency is seeking $945,000 in the next two-year state budget to conduct an architectural and engineering assessment.
Gabliks says the expansion itself could ultimately cost about $10 million. That estimate was made when the training facility, which opened in 2006, was designed.
In 2012, 371 people enrolled in a training academy through DPSST, according to the agency. By 2016, the figure had swelled to 839, and is expected to keep growing.
Currently, the dorms can accommodate 350 students at one time.
DPSST provides the training, materials, meals and lodging for trainees, while the local agencies that have hired them pay for their trainees’ salary, benefits and equipment.
A number of factors are behind the increased enrollment.
For one thing, the state and the economy are growing, so public safety departments can hire more people to try to meet the needs of a growing population, Gabliks said.
In 2000, about 3.4 million people lived in Oregon, according to that year’s census. The state now has about 4 million residents and 5,500 full-time police officers, Gabliks said.
Public sector agencies are also recovering from budget cuts brought on by the Great Recession.
And Oregon DPSST is taking on more responsibility.
DPSST now trains inspectors for the state liquor control commission, and is running more academies every year for 911 dispatchers and corrections officers, Gabliks said.
DPSST also makes its space available to other agencies, like the Oregon Youth Authority, for their training.
“In essence, we’ve become a centralized hub for state agency training,” Gabliks said.
Gabliks said his agency is planning to go before the legislature to request money for more academies before mid-July, when the two-year budget cycle ends.
Looking ahead, public safety agencies also expect a wave of retirements in the next few years.
About 1,000 Oregon police officers are eligible to retire, Gabliks said. That’s roughly 18 percent of the workforce.
Washington County Undersheriff Jeff Mori says his agency, which has about 600 employees, expects 105 employees to be eligible for retirement in the next five years.
Smaller, rural police departments and sheriff’s offices are also trying to staff up.
Those smaller agencies often have to compete with larger departments that have more funding and can afford to pay their employees more.
New hires at the Coos County Sheriff’s Office are currently having to wait several months to get a spot in the academy, says Staff Sgt. Eric Zanni.
Some new employees the department hired in July and August won’t attend training at DPSST until January, Zanni said. DPSST’s goal is to get new hires to the academy within 45 days.
In Southwest Oregon’s Josephine County, the local sheriff’s office has only recently started rebuilding their staff after years of budget cuts, according to Undersheriff Travis Snyder.
When federal dollars that were used to fund local services declined sharply, the county’s public services took a hit. In 2012, the sheriff’s office laid off about two-thirds of its staff, Snyder said.
Last year, voters in Josephine County approved a levy to fund the county jail and juvenile detention center. While the levy specifically supports corrections, it freed up general fund dollars that the county can use to hire patrol officers, Snyder said.
Now Josephine County is looking to hire 15 more deputies.
“It’s a good problem to have, but there’s a lot of hiring to do,” Snyder said.