Sisters may add another deputy

 

Last updated 2/14/2023 at Noon

a Deschutes County Sheriff’s Office lieutenant and three deputies. The agency and the City are considering adding a fourth, to close gaps in coverage and manage increased calls for service. PHOTO PROVIDED

Sisters is currently served

At the end of last month, the Deschutes County Sheriff’s office responded to a drunk and disorderly call at Takoda’s in Sisters (see “Man arrested, threats assessed,” The Nugget, February 8, page 1).

That Tuesday evening, it took 26 minutes for the west-county deputy with the Deschutes County Sheriff’s Office (DCSO) to arrive on scene. That is due to the gap in shifts at the local branch of the DCSO, which relies on the assigned west-county deputy to fill in shift gaps on Sunday, Monday, and Tuesday evenings between 6 p.m. and midnight.

Under the current contract that went into effect on July 1, 2020, the deputies assigned in Sisters provide 160 hours of patrol coverage. Lieutenant Chad Davis presented to the Sisters City Council last Wednesday night about adding an additional deputy to the three existing Sisters deputies that patrol the streets of Sisters.

The DCSO began a partnership contract in the way of an Intergovernmental Agreement (IGA), which is any agreement that involves or is made between two or more governments in cooperation to solve problems of mutual concern. This IGA came after the dissolving of the Sisters police department over 20 years ago. During discussions in winter of 2019, the DCSO and the City of Sisters looked at re-structuring the law enforcement services through a new IGA to serve needs created by population growth, increased tourism, and a need for more coverage during special events.

During the discussions leading up to the new contract, they spoke about having a lieutenant who serves as a defacto police chief and three or four patrol deputies to provide law enforcement services within the City, according to Lt. Davis’ presentation.

From 2020 through 2022, the number of calls for service have increased each year:

• 2020: 2,925 actual calls for service, plus self-initiated calls of 1,195. Total calls: 4,120.

• 2021: 3,582 actual calls for service, plus self-initiated calls of 2,156. Total calls: 5,738.

• 2022: 3,825 actual calls for service, plus self-initiated calls of 2,943. Total calls: 6,768

Over those last two years, DCSO has reduced response times and increased traffic stops (500 more per year). They have also hosted community outreach events educating the public on what they do.

The team at DCSO has done a lot already in the last two years of the new contract to increase law enforcement presence in Sisters. However, there are still gaps in the coverage, and with population only expected to continue to rise, more special events, more tourism, and part-time residents, the DCSO saw the need for an additional deputy.

“Per the contract in March of 2023, a review is to be completed to determine if any changes or modifications need to be considered,” Davis stated in his presentation to the Council.

During the start of the enhanced service, the City and DCSO went with the conservative amount of three deputies, but after increased call numbers over the last two years, they are proposing additional coverage by a fourth deputy, which is what Davis presented to the Council during the board workshop.

“A fourth deputy would expand our coverage to (16) hours a day, seven days a week, totaling 200 hours per week of patrol time,” said Davis.

They would be able to expand their presence in the City of Sisters and have an additional deputy to cover special events like Sisters Rodeo, Sisters Outdoor Quilt Show, Sisters Folk Festival, et al.

According to the workshop packet, “From a financial perspective, the law enforcement services fall under a department of the City’s General Fund. For FY 2022/23, the IGA carried a not to exceed (NTE) of $767,000 and with adding a fourth deputy that NTE would be closer to $925,000 (which includes a four percent personnel escalator for all deputies) for FY 2023/24.”

Being mindful of the potential for an additional deputy and their benefit to the community, staff retained a Law Enforcement Reserve in place for each of the budget years after the effective date of the new IGA. The reserve amount included in the budgets reflected the financial impact of an additional deputy. In the FY 2022/23 budget, the Law Enforcement Reserve was $136,000.

If the Council determines that an additional deputy is appropriate, the upcoming budgets will exclude the Law Enforcement Reserve.

 

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