PANHANDLING "Panhandling is legal; aggressive panhandling isn't," Roberts said. When police get complaints about people begging on the streets, it can be difficult for them to take any action. "We need you, as a citizen victim, to give us a statement," or there's nothing the cops can do. Even with a statement, though, nuisance crimes can be challenging to get prosecuted; police have to actively communicate with the district attorney's office to highlight problem offenders, or the DA will often opt not to prosecute.
YOUTH RELATIONS The department has a youth services officer, sponsors an "activities league" for kids to do various things (mostly sports), and school resources officers (in coordination with the school department). A "positive-ticket" program just entered the schools, in which when officers see kids doing something good (helping a peer, using a crosswalk, wearing a bike helmet, for example), they get a certificate from the police that can be redeemed for a reward (such as an ice-cream cone, a session of swimming at a community pool, or other activity). Roberts said the officers' goal is "treating the youth with respect even when we're not getting it."
DANGER TO OFFICERS Nationally, every 53 hours an officer is killed in the line of duty, Roberts said. By contrast, in Portland, once a week there's a minor injury on duty (though in 2008 and 2009 two officers were killed in service-related incidents, but both occurred while the officers were not actually on duty). Roberts and her colleagues stay conscious of the danger. "Tell him to wear his vest," she said to an attendee who mentioned that a friend was planning to become an officer.
GANGS Most of the gang activity is centered around boys and young men ages 14 to 22, and includes the Tiny Raskal Gang and the Bloods as well as other national or international gangs. There are also local "wannabe gangs" that cause havoc in some neighborhoods, she said, as well as motorcycle gangs, including the Outlaws, the Iron Horsemen, the Mountain Men, and the Hells Angels. Most gang activity involves drugs and prostitution, Roberts said.
EVIDENCE GATHERING The crimes that occupy most of the evidence technicians' time are burglaries, Roberts said. Those analyses, reports, and diagrams that people see on television shows can take days or weeks to produce accurately.
EMERGENCY COMMUNICATIONS Portland's building houses dispatching and 911-call answering for police, fire, and ambulance service in the Forest City as well as South Portland and Cape Elizabeth. There's a huge shelf of candy and snacks in the dispatch room.
TASERS The department is working on getting all officers certified to carry and use Tasers, after a trial run in 2009.
BECOMING AN OFFICER Candidates must pass written and physical tests, a thorough background check, a polygraph, and a medical examination, as well as complete the state's police academy. Officers must have a high-school education and a two-year college degree (a four-year degree is preferred).
GAY OFFICERS Roberts admitted she did not know every single officer well enough to give a full count, but said she knew of two openly lesbian officers and one openly lesbian civilian employee of the department; she said she knew of no openly gay men in the department.