Office of Management and Finance wants funding for public records team to reduce police backlog

Portland’s Office of Management and Finance is requesting continued funding of $1.5 million in the next budget cycle for a new records division that would help expedite the city’s response time to public records requests and to reduce the huge backlog accumulated by the Portland Police Department.

OMF Spokesperson Heather Hafer says WW that the city received nearly 33,000 requests for public records in 2020. Currently, PPB has over 18,000 pending requests, which is partly due to a 3% increase in requests per month.

The $1.5 million requested from the city’s general fund would allow City Hall to hire additional public records employees, though Hafer says how much is unclear. These employees would respond to requests for records in all offices, although clearing the PPB backlog is a priority, according to Hafer.

“Our immediate priority would be to clear the backlog of public records requests for the Portland Police Department,” Hafer said. “Once the police backlog is resolved, the department would be expanded to take on more of the work in all city offices.”

PPB attributes its backlog to a lack of staff and a higher workload, according to its document request portal.

“These trained professionals would be prepared to join a public records office when/if the council decides to establish one in the future,” she says. “The proposed Public Records Division team would also assess ways to make data more easily accessible, reducing the need for people to file records requests over time.”

The city attorney’s office is also seeking funding for additional public records employees, according to senior assistant city attorney Jenifer Johnston.

Hafer also notes that the police office is “actively hiring additional employees for open positions in the public records.”