News and Opinion from Sisters, Oregon

Assessing public safety in Sisters

The Deschutes County Sheriff’s Office motto is “Proudly Serving Our Community,” and the Sisters-Camp Sherman Rural Fire Protection District puts the residents of the district at the top of their organization chart. Both agencies are charged with providing for the public safety of the communities they serve with police and fire protection as well as medical response and transport.

In earlier times, Sisters had its own police department with a chief and patrol officers with cars and a motorcycle. Due to labor issues and financial concerns, the department was disbanded and the City began the practice of contracting with the DCSO for law enforcement services.

The current three-year contract with DCSO is up for renewal next July, and City Manager Cory Misley has been involved with renegotiating the contract, which has been basically the same for the past 20 years.

There is a certain percentage of the population that has expressed concern about perceived increasing levels of crime in the community and response times for officers. Some of those people have suggested that perhaps it is time for the City to consider re-establishing its own police force, no small chore.

With the DCSO contract, Sisters has at its disposal not only patrol officers, but also the services of the Corrections and Detective divisions as well as Search and Rescue services, SWAT team response, patrol vehicles, and automotive maintenance and insurance, as well as personnel benefit packages.

The current contract has increased in cost by 4 percent a year over the past two years and cost over $600,000 this year. To establish a City police force would require front-end expenditures, requiring the accumulation of funds prior to start-up for such things as vehicle purchases and equipment.

Each month, the City Council receives a report of officer activity for the preceding month. At that time, councilors can ask questions of the reporting officer and ask for enforcement adjustments if needed. Last summer, the DCSO initiated summer bike patrols in downtown Sisters to increase the visibility of police presence during the busy tourist season. The growth in the local population, as well as increasing tourism, merits a thorough review of current and future police services, something that is currently underway at City Hall. They are exploring and planning for the future of law enforcement in Sisters.

The local fire department has a long and proud history in Sisters covering the past eight decades. George Wakefield, who operated the local garage, was elected the first fire chief in 1937. Over the years the department has expanded with the gradual addition of equipment and personnel as well as the merger with the Camp Sherman Fire District in 1991 and the opening of Station 703 in Squaw Creek Canyon Estates. Beginning in the 1990s, the department has experienced a number of large wildland fires in the area. The largest number of their calls for service now are for medical response and transport, which far surpass fire calls.

(In the December 18 edition of The Nugget, there will be an in-depth report on services of Sisters-Camp Sherman Rural Fire Protection District, its services, personnel, programs, and equipment. On January 8, there will be a report on the DCSO in Sisters, including statistics on actual crime, and information about Internet sites where the general public can check on local crime. The results of a recently completed public survey will also be presented).

 

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