The Woodburn Police Department has taken quite the hit lately.
The last week of July severely crippled the department's reputation, with one former officer pleading guilty to official misconduct charges just days before another was arrested on alleged sex abuse charges from before his time on the WPD.
Needless to say, Chief Jim Ferraris had his hands full.
This isn't the first time the department has faced criticism due to issues among its ranks, but, as reported in today's issue, Ferraris has taken extensive strides to provide a thorough vetting process for anyone wishing to become part of the city's police force.
Ferraris told the Independent that when he came on as chief in December 2015, he laid out what he was looking for regarding the hiring process without focusing on the department's previous practices. But, considering what he was inheriting, it's not hard to believe he would want to establish an in-depth review of candidates. With a lawsuit originating from within the WPD ranks against the city and police leadership, not to mention a separate stalking order issued against an officer, Ferraris walked into a police department that sorely needed a fresh perspective.
Ferraris has managed to distance the PD from these incidents, with nearly everyone affiliated with these lawsuits no longer working for the city of Woodburn. He has hired and trained new officers, and has expressed a genuine desire to move Woodburn forward.
He also has not been guarded about how the city vets its potential officers.
When an anonymous tip suggested Det. Tim Cobos was using his police cruiser for sexual encounters and his influence to help his girlfriends get out of trouble, Ferraris immediately conducted an investigation. Within months, Cobos resigned and pleaded guilty to the official misconduct charges.
And Ferraris did not mince words when discussing the Cobos situation. He stood his ground that the Woodburn Police Department has high standards and values its integrity and trust with the public it has committed to serve.
So was it a coincidence that a day or two later, another Woodburn police officer was arrested on sex abuse charges? Probably.
Daniel Kerbs, who, like Cobos, was hired before Ferraris came on as chief, is being charged with crimes that allegedly occurred before his time as a police officer. While there are no accusations that he used his position to commit any crimes, it does leave the public questioning how the WPD has managed to bring on so many bad apples. Sure, cops are only human like you and me, but the number of incidents is certainly troubling.
While we understand Ferraris can't make much of a statement on this case — since it's still ongoing and since it allegedly happened before his time with the WPD — we as the public still crave that reassurance that we can trust our police force, that they will uphold their vows to serve and protect all of us.
It's not been a great time in our country for law enforcement. With racial justice issues and poorly managed misconduct situations happening nationwide, every police force faces a lot of scrutiny.
But we applaud the lengths the WPD goes through to vet any new officers, even if that takes extra time. Ferraris has done an admirable job sifting bad apples from the bucket and reorganizing the leadership structure of his department. We're not saying that it's a foolproof method, but we applaud the chief for standing up against what is clearly wrong, even when it means his department takes a hit.
So we urge the citizens of Woodburn to not lose heart in our police department based on a couple individuals. With the latest slew of officers and the new leadership the department is poised to leave these turbulent times behind and become more respected and trustworthy than ever before.