Shady Cove citizens weigh SCPD vs Sheriff policing

Hear ye, hear ye! Ye Olde Shady Cove Towne Hall Meeting is now in order!   

The afternoon study session was dedicated solely to formatting how the evening meeting would go. The Mayor laid out a plan of action with input from Council.

Though not exceeding its 200 person Occupancy Limit – the Upper Rogue Community Center was well packed for the evening’s main event. News cameras vied for position while citizens took their seats.

First up were the awards; the Mayor presented special Awards of Appreciation to two former Planning Commissioners – Shirley Williams and Wanda Vairetta – for their long standing dedication to the city.

It was then onto the Town Hall portion. Mayor Holthusen gave an overview of how the meeting would flow. He would read aloud one of the city’s findings on the issue, then ask for comment finding by finding. He advised they had a panel of experts who would provide most of the answers. Included in the panel were: former police officer and Shady Cove resident Jim Ulrich, Sheriff Mike Winters, Undersheriff Rod Countryman, Sergeant Jeremy Whipple and resident and former Sheriff Ed Mayer. Though not officially on the panel, resident John Crosswell, who has 30 years law enforcement experience, also contributed much to the discussion.

Many voiced a  desire to keep the Shady Cove Police Department, notably former councilor Lois Holland stated this, adding: “Shady Cove is a family” and that a personal police department would take care of family. 

In reply to this concern Crosswell advised he had worked with several counties in Nevada who had lost their police departments and in each case the sheriff did become part of their communities. Winters noted, the city wasn’t losing a family, but “Your family’s getting bigger.” SCPD representative, Scott Waldon said that if the city was a family, folks needed to think about their officers and their safety. To illustrate he recalled a late night suicide attempt call wherein he was so exhausted – having been sound asleep when the call came – that in searching the individual he missed a knife – putting himself and all present in danger. Waldon expressed – in no uncertain terms – that carrying on with the status quo is very risky in matters of liability and life.

Perhaps summing up the “family” issue definitively was Ulrich who affirmed that law enforcement, no matter the uniform color, first and foremost want to arrest bad guys and take care of those in their charge, “It’s the animal which comes out in us, in what we want to do; to make a community safe.”

A secondary concern was the financial impact of each option – a three- year cost projection was included in the handout. The upshot: over the long term contracting will cost essentially the same as having a police department. It was noted by panel members that with a contract the city would get “more bang for their buck”. With the sheriff the city would be getting “a system, not just officers.” Meaning the sheriff would bring more administration, better evidence research and control, more extensively trained officers and more resources in general.

Three options were presented: one retaining Shady Cove and two contracting with the sheriff’s department.
• Shady Cove- Keep “status quo” chief, sergeant, two officers and seasonal reserves (who must be accompanied by an officer.)
• JCSO- Option 1- Lieutenant, Sergeant, Administrative support (all assigned to support Shady cove)  and three deputies for Shady Cove.
• JCSO Option 2- Lt., Sgt. Administrative support, two deputies, one community service officers . Community service can handle low level calls (70–80% Shady Cove calls are “low level”, neighbor deputies, noise offenses, write tickets, but is not a sworn officer nor can this person carry a gun.)
SCPD        JCSO Option 1    JCSO Option 2
1st yr     536,300    500,392        464,589
2nd yr    579,433    600,344        571,072
3rd yr     637,850    566,541        537,269

Large increases reflect either budgeting for a vehicle or purchasing one. Option 2 is the one recommended by sheriff’s office.

It was asked whether the council would decide the matter or whether it would be put on a ballot. There was no answer as of Thursday’s meeting, but Ulrich stated he felt it was not a ballot issue – he did not wish to call voters “uninformed”, but noted not all citizens attended this or the many preceding meetings on the issue and that the council had been researching the matter for months.

In the end it was again a former council member – this time Alison Curtis – who seemed to speak for many folks when she expressed her changing view. She said she had come to the meeting “to fight for our police department”, but was being swayed by not only the night’s discussion, but by thinking back on 15 years of trying to keep the police department going “just a little longer”. She said she now felt it was time to consider other options.

No decision was made at the Nov. 19 meeting, and as noted previously any decision once made will take up to a year to implement. However it does seem that many of those who attended Ye Olde Towne Hall Meeting will rest a little easier whichever color uniform graces the future officers of Shady Cove.
By Christy Pitto
of the Independent


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