News and Opinion from Sisters, Oregon

Commentary: Law enforcement services for Sisters

Should the City of Sisters continue with its law enforcement contract or reconstitute the City of Sisters Police Department?

What needs to be weighed is a cost analysis. I have 23 years of experience in law enforcement with Multnomah County Sheriff’s Department and 30 years’ experience in the U.S. Army. I have prepared budgets for both law enforcement and various units in the Army.

Laurie Kimmell wrote a guest column for the October 2 edition of The Nugget. I agree with Ms. Kimmell in her basic assessment of the cost to establish a police department, except that her numbers for the department (chief of police, additional sworn personnel, non-sworn support staff, equipment and of course building a facility) is well underrepresented. The cost would be more like $6 to 7 million as start-up costs. The city would have to lure at least a dozen seasoned, certified, officers/deputies from other departments within the state to be the core for the new police department.

Per-hour salaries and benefits would have to be equal or better than all local departments to entice quality officers to transfer from their departments. It should cost approximately $4 million dollars per year for salaries, benefits, PERS and additional equipment and training as well as paying for a law enforcement bond which would have to be created to establish the department. There might be grants available from the Oregon Legislature or through the Federal Department of Justice to help reduce the start-up costs. A grant writer would have to be hired to start writing a grant. There are not any guarantees of receiving a grant.

All of this would require raising taxes!

We need to evaluate the startup cost versus the contractual cost with Deschutes County Sheriff’s Office (DCSO). DCSO operates four law enforcement patrol teams working 24/7 throughout Deschutes County. (The school resource officers are separate from the teams.) Each team is made up of a supervisor (sergeant) and 10 deputies with a minimum staffing of two supervisors and seven deputies to patrol the entire county (including the City of Sisters). This manning allows them to have deputies on vacation, sick leave, in-service training, external training, and court time. On average each team operates with two supervisors and seven deputies for the entire county.

This is the reason that we sometimes have a delay in response time, waiting for deputies to respond to the call, and a cover officer for serious calls.

If Sisters created their own police department, they would have the same issues for their sworn and non-sworn employees. The department would have to have enough staffing (three per shift, two officers and a supervisor) to function at an effective staffing level on a regular basis. There are also requirements for non-sworn support staff 24/7.

The minimum staffing would have to be one police officer, a supervisor or a second officer. There could be enough coverage on hand to handle most serious calls for service. The City would have to have a budget for personnel, equipment, training and overtime costs. The police vehicles would have to be equipped, maintained with proper equipment (radio, emergency lights, siren, laptop computer, other secure communications device, radar, rifle, and a shotgun). Maintenance of the fleet and fuel would have to be factored into the costs. Individual deputy equipment is another cost to be factored into the budget.

The city of Sisters does not have a police station. A police station would require a lobby, offices, equipment rooms, interview rooms, locker rooms, training room(s), armory, and at least two holding cells. All of this would require a detailed plan and a new tax levy (bond), The cost to build a police dtation for the city of Sisters should cost approximately $2.5 million depending on land


Additionally, the city would have to contract with Deschutes County for 911 services, detective, crime-scene technicians, evidence technician, hostage negotiator, and evidence storage and SERT team. These current services would no longer be included with a separate department. Currently, the School Resource Officer is provided by the sheriff’s department. Does the City want their own officer in lieu of the sheriff’s deputy (another trained


Are the citizens willing to pay to start up a fully staffed, newly built complex for a properly equipped local police department? A public safety levy would have to be voted in. Some citizens have said, “let’s use the existing sheriff’s department satellite building in the city.” The county bought the building, is using it as a satellite office, and does have tenants renting the remainder of the spaces.

The best use of city resources would be to develop a one-, five- and 10-year law enforcement plan to include staffing, duty requirements, and projected costs. The city needs to negotiate a more robust contract with DSCO to cover all of Sisters’ needs in accordance with the law enforcement plan. Hire a law enforcement consultant/liaison to assist with these requirements.

A law enforcement consultant/liaison would work issues between the City Council, local citizens, and Sheriff Shane Nelson.

Better communication would occur and would be a solution to current community concerns.

The liaison should be a sworn officer ready to assist with enforcement duties, as needed.

This liaison could develop the 1-5-10 year law enforcement plan, advise the city council, oversee law enforcement grants, and develop a precise plan for the next contract with Deschutes County.

The proposed cost of a new contract to replace the existing one is approximately $800,000 or more at current levels.

It would increase depending on negotiated requirements; this would be the best use of our tax dollar.


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