Eagle Point Police Chief and Public Safety Director Dave Strand has announced he will retire at the end of this year.
Strand, who has been the chief for a dozen years has reached retirement age. He said when he was hired he would stay for 12 years. Strand said one of the considerations for retirement was the current economy and his concern for the employees. He said the city cannot withstand additional layoffs, especially in the police department which has already seen a reduction in staffing this year as has other departments in the city.
The department has grown from four officers, a chief and a dispatch person to 14 officers and two records clerks (prior to this year’s staff reduction due to the economy) When Strand was hired, the police budget was $346,000 and the city’s population was 3,850. The 2008-09 budget was $1.4 million and the population is just under 9,000. A gradual improvement in the economy of the city due to the growth has benefitted the department.
Officers provided a list of changes that have occurred under Strand’s watch. Training became very important and it began with monthly sessions to meet DPSST requirements. Instructors were trained in firearms, defensive tactics and in the use of tasers in order to teach officers in house instead of attending out of the area sessions.
“Dave has the professionalism and organizational skill to formulate a clear strategy for the police department,” said City Administrator Dave Hussell. “He has done a sensational job mentoring some of the young officers who have turned out to be absolutely top notch police officers..When Strand was hired, Eagle Point had a volunteer fire department, thus he was also over the fire department. During his tenure he worked with Fire District 3 and their Chief Randy Iverson to enable the city to become part of Fire District #3 with a paid staff.
Positions were created for the officers. This required additional training. Positions of corporal, operations sergeant, lieutenant, detective, school resource officer were all created. When Strand came to Eagle Point there was a chief, a sergeant, a senior officer and two officers.
One of the challenges the department faced for the lean years prior to Strand’s arrival was the condition of its vehicles. A leasing program began, although today the city has started purchasing its own vehicles which is now more economical. The department currently has eight vehicles.
Vehicles weren’t the only thing that needed upgrading and funding. Weapons now include AR-15 and shotguns along with policies on the types of weapons officers may carry.
Eagle Point is part of the major assault death investigation unit.
One of the most significant changes and a point of pride not just for the police department but for the city and the community came in 2004 when Eagle Point Police Department became the fifth department in Oregon to be accredited. This past week it once again was visited by the accreditation team. Hussell said for the most part the city has not taken officers from other organizations, “so a lot have been learning to be police officers starting with the academy. Dave has the ability to meld new officers with the more experienced officers and formulate strategy in their conduct which actually culminates in the accreditation program.”
Hussell said, “it all boils down to leadership. I don’t know we could have gotten a better leader for a community our size. Dave Strand had the experience working with a variety of groups when he came to Eagle Point. The public supports our police because they do a good job and they do a good job because they are trained well.”
Officers have received upgraded badges, patches and uniforms over the last dozen years. Each officer now has a computer which makes the job of reporting and record keeping much more professional.
Strand spent the best part of a year spearheading the move of the Judge Stewart house from its location where Fire District #3 is located to its downtown location.
Neighborhood Watch is another program, which is active in some areas of Eagle Point.
Strand is on the board and has chaired Southern Oregon Regional Communications. He has been on the board of directors of the Oregon Association of Chiefs of Police for eight years and was appointed four years ago to the Oregon Accreditation Alliance Standards Commission.
Hussell will update the council on the upcoming changes in the department, including naming John Meeker acting chief of police.
By Nancy Leonard
Of the Independent