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Sheriff offers Fairview contract option

Officers support merger, say it will lift burden of being under-staffed

by: OUTLOOK PHOTO: CARI HACHMANN - Sheriff Dan Staton gives the Fairview City Council a presentation on what blending police services would look like for their city.Multnomah County Sheriff Dan Staton couldn’t offer Fairview a dollar amount on how much the city would save if it contracted police services with his agency, but said his staff will work with the city as soon as it wants to begin crunching numbers.

Currently in talks with Troutdale about a contract, the sheriff said the soonest possible contract with Fairview would be at least a year out, possibly two. The timing of a contract may depend upon vacancies within the sheriff’s ranks of deputies.

On Wednesday, April 16, Staton showed Fairview City Council a version of the proposal he offered Troutdale on April 1 in hopes the city may consider a similar approach. Councilors were interested to learn more.

“I think there is a lot of interest,” said Mayor Mike Weatherby following the presentation. “My sense is people want to take the next step to fact finding to see what it means.

“(The Sheriff) spent much of the time talking about Troutdale, and I really want to know what it means for Fairview,” Weatherby added.

Staton said he had not had the opportunity to sit down with Fairview’s finance director, nor had he conferred with Ken Johnson, Fairview’s police chief, on specifics of a proposal.

“I am basically bringing you a suggestion,” Staton said.

Bringing on Fairview and its population of 8,920 people would bump the number of citizens the sheriff serves to 54,383. That number would include Troutdale, Wood Village, Maywood Park and all of unincorporated Multnomah County.

If Fairview and Troutdale merge services with the Sheriff’s Office, he said there would likely be eight deputies covering East Multnomah County at one time with full supervision.

Staton assured the council that if officers brought on from Fairview or Troutdale rotated positions, it wouldn’t affect the officers’ ability to serve the city with the same familiarity.

The sheriff said the department’s operating philosophy is to “know the community we serve.”

Services would be tailored to each city’s specific needs, whether that be gang enforcement or patrols of illegal camping. In a lot of cases, deputies would rather problem solve than make an arrest or cite someone, the sheriff said.

One of the sheriff’s objectives is to move its operations and administration from the dilapidated Hansen Building on 122nd Avenue in Northeast Portland to offices in one of the East County cities.

“If things work out with Troutdale, their existing building is where we would put the patrol unit,” Staton said. The sheriff said a second building, up to 40,000 square feet, would still be needed to house administration — civil process, property control, records and investigative units.

Like Troutdale, Fairview officers would become deputies. At first, people won’t notice the change.

“Initially, you will see the same officers doing patrols,” Staton said.

City officers would wear the same uniforms and drive the same cars, but would don the sheriff’s star badges.

But the sheriff said there would be a five- to seven-year transition of officer uniforms and patrol cars to a generic look for all deputies.

“It’s just making sure the cities don’t feel like they’ve lost their identity on the law enforcement side,” Staton said.

As for officers remaining in the cities they serve, he said, “Eventually, there’s going to come a time you will see new faces.”

Johnson, Fairview’s police chief, would maintain a managerial role within the Sheriff’s Office.

“It’s my expectation, he’s the one who is going to report to you on this City Council,” Staton said.

Brad Robertson, president of the Fairview Police Officers Association, said all the union’s members and association members are unanimously in favor of consolidation with the Sheriff’s Office.

“I know it would be better for public safety services,” Roberston said.

Fairview police employs 15 officers.

In just the past few years, he said Fairview police have dealt with two violent homicides, one vehicular homicide and three officer-involved shootings. At the same time, two officers have undergone cancer treatment.

“Those major incidents have tapped out our officers,” he said, and have made it difficult for officers to move forward as a union.

“For us to be able to call upon resources of the entire Sheriff’s Office and also work with Troutdale would be a great opportunity, for us and for all the citizens,” he said.

Council President Lisa Barton Mullins said there are many unanswered questions, such as how cost effective it would be to contract with the county versus financing the city police department.

“What I am hearing from our officers, is they think it is a really good deal for them,” she said. “If our citizens are going to be safer, and it’s going to save us money, all in all, it’s a good deal.”

The Fairview City Council will discuss a possible contract with the sheriff at the city’s next work session.

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