Timber county sheriff's gap filled by state police
GRANTS PASS — Oregon state troopers are filling the law enforcement gap in rural Josephine County after voters refused to raise local taxes to pay for sheriff's patrols.
State detectives investigated nearly 800 cases in Josephine County last year, 86 percent referred from the sheriff's office.
Investigations went from 5 to 10 cases a month before cuts in the sheriff's office, to 50 to 85 cases after the cuts, the Grants Pass Daily Courier reported.
The cuts were imposed in June 2012 as the federal government cut subsidies to timber-dependent counties, leaving the sheriff's office two patrol deputies and no detectives.
State police say since then, 72 percent of patrol calls and 86 percent of detective calls were referred from the sheriff's office.
State police are sending more personnel to Josephine County to handle the extra work, amounting to a state law enforcement subsidy. Five of the 10 new troopers approved by the Legislature for 2015 will be based in Josephine County.
Sheriff Gil Gilbertson said that with one deputy injured, he was down to just one patrol deputy to cover the rural county's 1,600 square miles. They work business hours Monday through Friday, and are not available nights or weekends, when state police fill the gap.
“The guys that are working nights and weekends have really had to do a lot more,” said state police Senior Trooper Josh Quick. “We're not able to work traffic as much as in the past.”
The 797 cases state police detectives investigated in Josephine County in 2013 compares to just 148 cases in neighboring Jackson County, where the population is more than twice as large and the sheriff's department has patrols and detectives.
“OSP is definitely feeling an impact while working very hard to minimize the effect it has on the community and transportation safety,” state police spokesman Lt. Gregg Hastings said. “The increased caseload definitely leads to long hours, increased responsibility and associated pressures.”
Michael Sellers, chief of state to Republican state Sen. Herman Baertschiger of Grants Pass, cautioned that the help state troopers are providing may not always be there.
But Republican gubernatorial candidate Dennis Richardson, a state representative from Central Point, said it was the state's responsibility to pitch in to ensure the safety of all Oregonians.
Josephine County Commissioner Keith Heck wrote a letter of appreciation to state police.
“While they cannot replace all of the deputies we have lost, their presence and hard work has truly helped us avert a total law enforcement disaster,” he wrote.
Information from: Daily Courier, http://www.thedailycourier.com