Springfield Police Chief Andrew Shearer told City Club he felt the department was in a pretty decent spot in terms of staffing. He reported that there are presently nine vacancies in addition to the 69 sworn officers (including the chief). He said the word is getting out that Springfield is a place where you might want to be a police officer. That is fortunate, he said, because the market for hiring officers is extremely tight. One group he would clearly like to increase is the corps of Community Service Officers. These non-sworn employees help relieve the burden on sworn offices by taking a lot of calls that do not require a sworn officer. He also was very happy to have the support of CAHOOTS, which now has a vehicle based in Springfield to relief pressure on patrol officers. The Chief noted that before the pandemic the Department had about 30 volunteers to help;’ now that is down to about 6 and he hopes to restore the level as he can get additional volunteers to step forward. The Department is now developing a Downtown Volunteer Program to help move that goal forward.
Chief Shearer also introduced Deputy Chief Jamie Resch, a recent addition to the staff who comes with 24 years of policing experience in Portland. The Deputy Chief, which is a new position in Springfield, handles day to day operations of the department, making it possible for the Chief to oversee budget, recruitment and hiring, and public information and community outreach.
Chief Shearer reviewed the legislative agenda that the department is following, noting that just that morning the State Senate had apparently resolved the deadlock that had prevented them from achieving a quorum.
Deputy Chief Resch was asked to describe the process for handling a call for an apparently homeless person occupying space near a business. She said that the primary focus would be to try and defuse the situation so that the individual was not a challenge but without needing to take the person into custody. She said that when it becomes necessary to take a person into custody in that situation, the department has few resources to help deal with the situation. They are limited to writing a trespassing report which get referred to the District Attorney for prosecution but that given the volume of more serious allegations of criminal activity, those rarely are prosecuted.
The chief did note that the existence of the municipal jail was a resource that most jurisdictions do not have. The possibility of incarcerating individuals for misdemeanors he described as a tremendous resource to remove people from disruptive behavior.
The chief also described a new program the department has initiated – the Trauma Intervention Program of TIPS. He said that when offices respond to a traumatic event, a crime or even just a natural death, they have had no way to provide support to those affected by the trauma of the event. Now they have a group of experienced volunteers who can be asked to come to a scene and provide support to an individual so that the officers don’t simply show up and then leave an individual to cope with the aftermath.
Chief Shearer was asked about the recently announced Lane Conty Stabilization Center. He responded that there is a large funding gap both in terms of building and operating such a center. A lot needs to be done, he said, before that can become a reality.