Community policing choices don't carry any guarantees

Few things fire small-town passions like the prospect of losing a treasured vestige of independence, whether a newspaper, grocery store, elementary school or police department.

Because newspapers and grocery stores operate as independent businesses, rather than arms of local government, the citizenry tends to expect and have more say about the latter. And it typically takes full advantage.

Sheridan, Willamina, Dayton and Lafayette have opted to relinquish local policing and contract with the sheriff’s office. Dundee has merged its force with that of neighboring Newberg. And despite occasional financial, contractual or performance issues, they seem to be at peace with that decision.

Among Yamhill County’s smaller communities, Yamhill, Carlton and Amity field forces of their own. However, rocky histories with independent policing have led both Carlton and Amity to periodically take serious looks at contracting, and Amity currently has one underway.

Actually, both maintaining an independent force and contracting out offer advantages.

Members of independent forces tend to dig deeper roots, becoming friends and neighbors. And the community routinely subjects them to closer oversight. But the level of pay, experience, training, professionalism and supervision usually is higher in an organization the size and complexity of the sheriff’s office.

When communities can hire a chief like Amity’s Dan Brown or Carlton’s Kevin Martinez, they receive of both.

Brown spent 17 years with the McMinnville police, during which time he rose to second in command and became a finalist for chief. After earning a criminal justice degree from Chemeketa and completing advanced FBI and federal Department of Justice training, he began pursuing a degree in business management at Linfield. He held the position in Amity for 15 years before retiring last year.

Martinez is a Eugene native who earned a bachelor’s in criminal justice administration and master’s in public administration. During 22 years amassing narcotics, canine, patrol and detective experience in Lebanon, he earned his sergeant’s stripes and entered the command structure. He’s supervised the Carlton force for seven years now with nary a ripple.

Brown’s replacement, 30-year Newberg police veteran Chris Bolek, appeared cut from the same cloth. And for reasons to which we’re not privy, he lasted less than six months.

Before hiring Martinez, Carlton had a like experience with Bill Middleton.

It’s not an exact science. Communities need to weigh their options as objectively as possible, then take their best shot.