With an end to his job as Gold Beach’s top cop, Chief Tracy Wood’s interim successor was named by the Gold Beach City Council at Monday’s meeting. Sergeant Donald Miller will fill in as police chief until a permanent person can be named.
Wood retired at the end of August after roughly 12 years on the force, the last three as chief. Throughout his tenure he stressed community involvement and creating strong relationships both in the community through partnerships and with outside policing agencies. When asked about his goals at the start of his tenure as chief, Wood said he wanted to rebuild and maintain good relations with the other agencies in the area.”
Police Chief Wood made sure the department joined the interagency task force on narcotics among others in the region.
An Oregon Coast native, Wood said he loves to “hunt, fish and go camping,” something he’ll presumably have more time for now that he’s out of the hot seat.
Wood’s departure is part of a rapid amount of turn over at the top for the small department with only seven full time employees.
Interim Chief Miller also plans to retire and move with his family back to Texas as soon as his successor can be identified and hired.
“He’s promised to stay with us until we can find a replacement,” said Mayor Tamie Kaufman who appointed Interim Chief Miller.
“We’re close on a potential hire. We just have to wait for some tests to come back,” according to Kaufman.
The Gold Beach Police Department doesn’t operate 24 hours per day and receives coordinated assistance from the Curry County Sheriff’s Department.
Both Wood and Miller transferred from the Curry County Sheriff’s Department and worked their way up through the ranks. The style of policing has been consistent according to Mayor Kaufman who is seeking to continue the policies and plans laid out by prior administrations.
“I have a lot of hope to continue to be a peace officer force, to try to prevent crime by having a nice presence in our community.”
Hiring in small departments is a challenge.
A recent survey of nearly 200 departments by the Police Executive Research Forum, a nonprofit research firm, shows a 45% increase in the retirement rate of police officers and a nearly 20% increase in resignations in 2020-21 compared to the previous year.
The change is affecting departments of all sizes. The research group's survey shows that in the largest departments with 500 or more officers, the retirement rate increased by nearly 30%. Overall, according to the survey, new police hiring has dropped 5%.
PERF reports the conversation nationally about policing and accountability is driving some of the shortages. In Portland a new division to look at race related crimes had four applicants for a 14 person unit. Other openings in Portland have remained as they scramble to find qualified officers.
Neither Wood nor Miller have made any claims about their departures outside of the personal in Gold Beach, but police shortages overall impact the city’s ability to fill open positions going forward, a fact Mayor Kaufman notes. “We think we’ll have someone soon but we don’t want to jinx it.”