Featured Stories

ILLEGAL DRUGS

Ecstasy use increases

First it was anti-tobacco commercials, then hard liquor companies promoting responsible drinking. Next, thanks to Partnership for a Drug-Free America, people can expect to see ads warning against the dangers of the widely popular party drug, Ecstasy.

Known as the 'love drug' for its hallucinogenic and euphoric effects, the drug has seen a 20 percent increase in use among teens nationally, a new study shows. At the same time, teens' use of all other drugs is remaining stable or declining, the study says.

Two local teen-agers died of Ecstasy overdoses last year after taking the drug at a rave Ñ all-night dance parties that attract young people.

Oregon Partnership is kicking off a campaign of print, radio and television ads depicting a teen ignoring a peer who's had a bad reaction to the drug, which comes in colorful round tablets. The tag line reads, 'Ecstasy. So where's the love?'

WILDLIFE

Cougar study spurs suit

The Sierra Club and several other conservation groups are worried that cougars in Oregon will be killed as part of a government study.

Ten parties Ñ including an Oregon hunter Ñ are suing the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, claiming the government agency plans to kill half the cougars in northeastern and southwestern Oregon in a $5.2 million, five-year study of elk populations. The lawsuit alleges the agency did not prepare an environmental impact statement for the elk study.

The study began in December and, so far, cougars have been captured but not killed, said Don Whittaker, cougar program coordinator for Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife.

He said the study is well-designed and humane, and though some cougars will be killed, the study could not have been conducted another way. He said that they routinely use veterinarians during captures and that part of the reason they're conducting the study is because the funds were included in a 1999 state legislative budget.

CITY BUDGET

Challenges await

Portland's financial problems continue to grow. The city already is looking at cutting $3 million from its current budget because of the recession and an ongoing utility franchise fee dispute with Qwest Communications.

Now the Portland Police Bureau is looking at an additional $3 million shortfall caused primarily by unexpectedly high overtime costs. Police Chief Mark Kroeker has proposed several steps for closing this gap, including laying off desk clerks and cutting both part-time and limited-duration jobs. Mayor Vera Katz must decide what to do soon. The fiscal year ends July 30.

But the city is facing even greater problems next year Ñ an $18 million general fund shortfall. Katz already has asked all city agencies how they could reduce their general fund budgets by 7 percent. Proposals include closing police precincts and fire stations. Although Commissioner Erik Sten already has proposed tapping the city's $35 million reserve fund, Katz won't unveil her budget until her State of the City speech scheduled for Feb. 22.

POLICE

Female recruits sought

The Portland Police Bureau this month is conducting a series of focus groups that they hope will help to recruit women in the future.

More than 100 women Ñ professionals, high school and college students, current and former police officers Ñ will answer questions to help gather information about why they are or aren't in law enforcement careers.

'We should be able to target recruitment better,' said Jennifer Lawrence, recruiting coordinator. 'For example, if a high school student says she wished we would've done recruiting in high school, we'll know to start that early.'

Results are due back in mid-March.

Portland Police Chief Mark Kroeker has said it's his intention to continue to add diversity to the bureau's ranks, including in the all-male Special Emergency Reaction Team.

Safety belts enforced

The Multnomah County Sheriff's Office is conducting a child safety belt enforcement mission through Feb. 17.

Authorities want to remind motorists that beginning Jan. 1, the state statute changed to require that children ages 4 through 6 or weighing 40 to 60 pounds must be secured properly with a child safety system.

That means that the lap belt must be positioned across the child's thighs and the shoulder belt must be positioned over the collarbone and away from the neck. A shoulder belt worn underneath the child's arm constitutes an improper fit and is citable under the law.

Dog, officer honored

Gus, one of the Portland Police Bureau's hardworking police canines, was recently presented with the bureau's Canine of the Year Award for the second year in a row.

The 10-year-old German shepherd and his partner, Officer Mike Kemp, captured 23 suspects from January through September 2001, when Gus retired after eight years of service. Kemp, a 16-year officer with the canine unit, is now assigned to Southeast Precinct patrols.

Gus and Kemp are only the second canine team to have captured 500 suspects in their career together, making 507 captures.

The K-9 unit is supported by the Southeast Precinct Citizens Advisory Council, which holds fund-raisers for dogs' bulletproof vests and other equipment.

MEDIA

Censored stories shared

Project Censored is a California-based research group that publicizes what it says are important but underreported news stories.

Among other things, the group compiles and releases a list of each year's 'Top 25' censored stories.

Director Peter Phillips will discuss last year's list at a Portland State University conference from 6:30 p.m. to 9:30 p.m. Wednesday, Feb. 20.

The conference, called Project Censored Live, will be held in the Smith Center Ballroom. It is sponsored by the Independent Publishing Resource Center, the Metropolitan Group and KBOO Radio. Call 503-827-0249.

Ñ Tribune staff