Brookings city officials asked a question Monday that strikes at the heart of the impending financial crisis and subsequent public safety impact for Curry County.
“What is the role of our police officers if there are no sheriff’s deputies available to respond to an incident outside of the city limits?”
With Curry County on the brink of a financial meltdown, the Sheriff’s Department currently has six patrol deputies, two working each day on shifts covering 20 hours a day, seven days a week. The number of deputies is likely to drop when crucial federal timber funds dry up within a year. (The same is about to happen in the neighboring counties of Josephine and Jackson.)
Police Chief Chris Wallace and Sheriff John Bishop have a mutual aid agreement in which their officers and deputies back up one another during potentially high-risk calls. At a city workshop Monday, Wallace broached the subject of what happens when deputies are no longer available.
“It’s not my intent to respond to calls in the county all the time; my priority is the city proper,” Wallace said.
There are no options available for the sheriff, whose last-ditch effort to raise funds just to maintain current operations failed when voters rejected a law enforcement levy last year.
So what is the answer to the city’s question?
None was given at Monday’s workshop. However, the suggestion was made that citizens be invited into the discussion via a public meeting.
Which begs another question: Will citizens come?
A majority of voters sent a clear message when they rejected the law enforcement levy. What will it take to convince them of the seriousness of this public safety crisis?
Perhaps nothing, until a life-threatening incident happens in their homes and there are no sheriff’s deputies on duty, and the nearest city police officer is busy on another call.