Question arises on dislike of assignment by sheriffs deputies

“Our decision as a council does not take place tonight. We are all ears. We are here to listen to you,” Estacada Mayor Brent Dodrill told the crowd gathered to give and hear public opinion on the police contract that is under consideration by the City Council.

The testimony was heard during the Monday, April 22, City Council meeting.

The city, which has contracted with the Clackamas County Sheriff’s Office for law enforcement services since 1978, is considering contracting a switch to the Sandy Police Department.

Sheriff Craig Roberts and Lt. Shane Strangfield of the Clackamas County Sheriff’s Office and Sandy Chief of Police Kim Yamashita attended the council meeting.

Roberts challenged the city to ask itself three questions when pondering the police contract decision: Why don’t you see small cities contracting across the state? Why should Estacada contract with the Sheriff’s Office? What resources would be available to Estacada in the event of a major incident?

Roberts cited lack of staff and resources as the main reasons why there are not more examples of small cities such as Sandy contracting for police coverage throughout Oregon.

In explaining the benefits of contracting with the Sheriff’s Office and the resources available to Estacada, Roberts mentioned that the Sheriff’s Office has nearly 500 employees.

He also noted several highly trained specialized units that Estacada has access to through the Clackamas County Sheriff’s Office contract. The Drug Task Force, Street Crime Unit, Internet Crimes Task Force and Financial Fraud Unit were among the examples he gave.

Yamashita was given a chance to respond.

“We don’t have 500 people,” she stated matter-of-factly to chuckles from the audience. “But we have a talented staff.”

She took a moment to point out that Sandy has a great working relationship with the Sheriff’s Office.

In response to Roberts last question — What resources would be available to Estacada in the event of a major incident? — Yamashita responded, “Any agency, no matter the size, can exhaust its resources.”

Sandy provided support for the Sheriff’s Office during the December 2012 Clackamas Mall shooting, for example. Everyone, said Yamashita, relies on mutual aid agreements during big events.

Dodrill acknowledged the receipt of letters voicing public opinion that had been mailed or submitted through the City Council website.

He then invited citizens who had filled out a form prior to the meeting to voice their opinions.

Attorney Joanna Harbour said that although she was sure either agency would provide excellent service and that she had no experience with the current Sheriff’s Office deputies assigned to Estacada, “It’s always been a concern that deputies don’t actually want to be here.”

She liked the idea of having police cars marked “Estacada” and felt comforted by the Sandy officers application process to serve in Estacada.

During public testimony during the meeting, Joanne Derr told of her experience the day after Lookin’ Good Salon was burglarized.

The salon had called in the burglary at 8 a.m. Two hours later, when Derr showed up for her hair appointment, the deputy had not yet arrived.

As no one was allowed in the salon until the police showed up, they called again and were told that the police were already there.

“But if they were, they were invisible,” Derr said.

A woman who did not want her name in the paper told of an experience where she overheard a deputy after he had responded to a call.

“What do they expect? They live in Estacada,” she heard him say.

Jim Carey spoke from his perspective as a longtime member of the Estacada School District with lots of experience interacting with the police.

“I have nothing but praise for the service that Clackamas County Sheriff’s Department has provided in the last few years,” he said.

Carey spoke of the Sheriff’s Office’s quickness and professionalism in their response to calls.

He explained that it had taken years to build this relationship with the Sheriff’s Office and that he does not want to start over.

Susie Tracy, the director of Drug Free Estacada Families and Youth, said she was not there to pitch either side.

She thanked the Sheriff’s Office for being a partner and advocate and for the resources they had made available to DEFY.

She thanked Yamashita for meeting with her to discuss the needs of the coalition, the community and the schools.

Don Kurtz spoke of the importance of the decision.

He said he had been impressed by Clackamas County Sheriff’s Office Deputy Matt Helmer. He said Helmer had mentioned that the deputies were “always putting out fires” because of “thin” coverage.

He also said Chief Yamashita had “taken Sandy to a new level” with the accreditation of the Sandy Police Department.

He expressed interest in seeing hard copies of the coverage budget comparisons.

In response, Councilor Michele Conditt said the City Hall staff would be happy to show the numbers to interested citizens.

Conditt announced that new budget comparisons showed roughly $40,000 in savings with a Sandy contract.

She stated that 50 percent of Estacada calls happen during hours when there are no deputies on duty. She asked Yamashita how Sandy would deal with after hours calls, noting that Yamashita didn’t have to answer right then, as she hadn’t had a chance to prepare a response. Yamashita said she would contact the City Council with her answer.

“If you want more coverage we’d be happy to provide it, but we’ll need more money. Probably a bond,” Conditt told the audience.

Councilor Curt Steininger disagreed.

“More coverage doesn’t necessarily mean more taxes,” he said.

The councilor thanked the audience for attending the meeting and voicing their opinions. Several councilors thanked Councilor Sean Drinkwine for initiating the police debate. Several councilors mentioned issues they would like to discuss at future meetings.

Dodrill said that a decision on the police contract would be reached at the May 13 City Council meeting. He invited citizens to continue to email, call or come by City Hall with input on the police decision.

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