Policing the streets with a smile
Sometimes the motorists respond with frowns. But for the most part, they smile and wave back.
Ramsey is McMinnville Police Department’s one-woman parking patrol. Instead of a weapon, she carries a long wand with a piece of chalk at the end, which she uses to mark tires on the parked cars she passes.
She issues some citations, but considers her work more a matter of educating the public in order to win voluntary compliance than penalizing people for slipups. “My goal is to make the downtown livable and provide good parking opportunities for everyone,” she said.
To that end, she carries maps depicting two-hour zones and free parking areas. She distributes them them out to people who work downtown or spend long hours in the downtown area, so they’ll be able to avoid tickets and give others a shot at the spaces closest to business establishments.
“Sometimes it’s an easy thing, like parking in the parking garage rather than on the street right outside it,” she said. “Sometimes it’s a challenge, and there are other options, like carpooling, riding the bus or biking to work.”
She herself uses the latter mode of transportation, cycling to the police department to pick up her scooter and pedaling home after her shift.
In her free time, she’s learning to ride a motorcycle, so she and her husband can go off-roading. She’s planning to take a class next month.
Ramsey grew up in Pendleton, where she enjoyed riding ATVs and engaging in rock climbing. After high school, she attend Blue Mountain Community College.
She lived in Southern Oregon for several years, working in stores specalizing in outdoor apparel and equipment. She also worked at Mount Ashland, where she learned to snowboard.
Family brought her to McMinnville. She’s happy about that, because she likes the Willamette Valley in general and McMinnville in particular.
She met her husband here. Two years after she started working parking patrol, she met Brian Ramsey, a veteran of the Yamhill County Sheriff’s Office.
They have two daughters at Mac High, freshman Kailee and junior Elsa, and Blake, a son at Chemeketa Community College.
She had some interest in law enforcement as a teen, but wasn’t thinking about that when she applied for the parking job. “I knew it would be working with the public, but didn’t realize it was part of the police,” she said.
Hired in 2004, she did the job part time for four years. She also worked part time with the juvenile peer court program and city administration.
The parking position became full time in 2008. She likes it because “it gets me out in the community” — and outside, period.
Ramsey prefers to be outdoors, rather than cooped up in an office. There are some exceptions, though.
During the recent heavy snowfalls, she was glad to get the chance to help with typing and filing at the police station. And some cold, rainy days aren’t pleasant. “But that just makes me appreciate the days when it’s 70 and sunny,” she said.
Generally, she said, “My heart is being outside and being able to talk to the public.”
Sometimes Ramsey drives through residential areas to answer an abandoned vehicle complaint or help enforce city codes. She also patrols residential parking zones around the high school.
She spends the majority of her time downtown, though, enforcing the two-hour parking rule. She also monitors what’s going on and passes along information to patrol officers.
“I tend to be the eyes and ears downtown,” she said. “I can see things most patrol officers don’t.”
And for citizens, she’s available to take complaints about all sorts of problems, including graffiti, noise and loitering.
“I’m there,” she said. “I’m easy to contact.”
She tries to make herself approachable.
Fortunately, she said, smiling comes naturally for her. “I’m a happy person,” she said. “I try to be.”
Ramsey keeps her spirits up by driving different routes, rather than following the same one every day.
During the Christmas season, she rewards herself by making her last run a trip from east to west on Third Street, enjoying the pretty lights.
“It’s beautiful,” she said. “I’m lucky to get to work in such a beautiful place.”
In addition to her parking patrol work, Ramsey is involved with Special Olympics. She organizes the annual “Tip a Cop” event at Golden Valley Brewery & Pub to raise money for the Yamhill County chapter.
She also participates in the Special Olympics Torch Run before the state summer games. Last year, she had the honor of running the torch into the stadium with Tim Siler, a local athlete.
She has served on the City Employee Health Fair Committee since 2007, and chaired it the past two years. She helped with the Mayor’s Charity Ball for several years as well.
Ramsey has joined other police department and law enforcement personnel in the Relay for Life, which helps with the fight against cancer. And she volunteers with another cancer-fighting organization, the St. Baldrick’s Foundation.
St. Baldrick’s sponsors fundraisers in which participants shave their heads to raise money for children’s cancer research.
Ramsey went to her first St. Baldrick’s event with her stepson, who was a shavee. Soon, she was offering to organize a St. Baldrick’s party in Yamhill County.
“We did really well,” she said, remembering the events in 2011, 2012 and 2013.
She even shaved her head for the cause. And this month, she’ll be shaving it again at a St. Baldrick’s event in Monmouth, as the next local event won’t be until 2015.
“I’ve always had a heart for children, and I’ve had friends and family members with cancer,” she said. “So naturally, I’d support a charity that’s specific to kids and cancer.”