One in five Portland Police Bureau employees took bereavement leave in the two weeks after Mayor Ted Wheeler encouraged city workers take paid time off to grieve the deaths of Black people killed by law enforcement.
In all, 249 police bureau employees requested bereavement leave, a level and rate unmatched by all other city bureaus, according data released by the city late Thursday.
The data shows 52% of the 483 city employees who requested leave between June 8 and June 25 work for the police bureau. The police agency employs around 1,200 people and more than 910 are sworn officers.
The next-largest groups were the 79 employees from the Portland Bureau of Transportation, then 33 from the Bureau of Environmental Services.
At the Bureau of Emergency Communications, 24 workers requested leave, or one in six employees, a rate that appears to rank second to the police bureau.
However, the city did not disclose exact numbers for bureaus where 10 or fewer employees took bereavement leave. Those bureaus ranged from large agencies — fire and housing — to the offices of Commissioners Jo Ann Hardesty, Chloe Eudaly and late Nick Fish.
The bereavement leave data was provided by the city through a public records request. The city bureau bereavement leave numbers were first reported by Willamette Week.
The Bureau of Human Resources said last week that it’s unclear if all employees who’ve requested the time off since Wheeler’s June 8 email did so because of the mayor’s message. The city doesn’t track why staff request bereavement leave. The city also said demographic information of employees who take bereavement leave isn’t tracked, although the city maintains a public database of the racial breakdown of its workforce.
In Wheeler’s email to all city employees, the mayor announced the city was temporarily expanding its rules on funeral and bereavement leave, because the city acknowledged Black employees were experiencing grief and trauma that has compounded over centuries. He said he ordered managers and supervisors to approve requests without questioning any employees who request leave.
A follow-up email sent June 23 by the city’s human resources office said the reasoning behind the leave “centered on” Black employees and other employees of color, as well as white employees who have immediate relatives who are people of color.
“We are asking particularly white employees to reflect on why and how they are taking this time if they so choose, and we ask white employees to consider how they can support BIPOC colleagues,” the email said. BIPOC stands for Black, Indigenous and people of color.
The majority of city employees work for Parks and Recreation, the Police Bureau and Bureau of Transportation.
According to city data current through Thursday, the police bureau employs 224 people who identify as people of color, 46 of whom identify as Black.
The data shows 82% of police bureau employees are white, compared to 73.5% of the overall city workforce.
The city employs more than 7,600 people and about 2,000 are people of color, according to city data as of Thursday. Of the people of color employed by the city: 7.1% are Latinx; 7% Asian; 6.8% Black; 1.1% Native American and 0.5% Pacific Islander. Another 3.9% identify as multi-racial and 0.1% of employees have declined to tell the city their ethnicity.
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