Council weighs options after vocal citizens support Hubbard police
Though no decision was made on the subject by Hubbard City Council, about 130 people gathered and engaged in a lively discussion at the Hubbard Fire Station Thursday night regarding the future of police services.
Hubbard police officers Glen Bentley and Chris Anderson opened the meeting with a presentation that focused on their department's community policing, which means checking in on seniors in the community to following each individual case from start to finish.
That presentation was followed by Marion County Sheriff Jason Myers and Commander Eric Hlad, who shared that contracting with Marion County would still be keeping several boots-on-the-ground officers in Hubbard, continuing to fulfill the need for fast response and community engagement. Marion County's proposal of staffing Hubbard with six officers (which would include hiring Hubbard's two current officers) plus a police chief would cost $1,047,848 per year. While the council said Thursday night that it didn't have numbers to compare, the recently approved budget for the city of Hubbard shows the amount approved for police services in 2017, which includes a total of six employees, including officers, a chief and an administrative assistant, is $839,495.
The public comment portion of the meeting featured the majority of the 16 citizens who spoke still supporting the current structure, many of them also citing that SafeWise named Hubbard the safest city in Oregon last year.
"I think we would be headed in the wrong direction if we got rid of our police department," said Mike Lipke, who runs Trillium Pacific Millwork. "When my company was located in Wilsonville, we never saw police officers near our business (Wilsonville contracts with Clackamas County for law enforcement). When I moved (to Hubbard) … the police have been very helpful, I've had no problems. That's why I've recommended other businesses to come to Hubbard."
Others recommended the decision go to a vote — one resident even delivered a petition of signers supporting that option — or that the council should appoint a committee to further investigate the options.
Former city councilor Matt Kennedy was the sole presenter to speak out against the current Hubbard Police Department, referring to it as a "good ole boys" association that has a couple past and present HPD employees threatening to sue the city. He said a current police officer told him he can't attack Hubbard police and expect to be protected.
"I disagree. I always thought this was an exchange of my tax dollars for my safety, not a buddy club where you protect only those who agree with you," Kennedy said, adding he believes there's a need for better checks and balances in the city to supervise the police department.
But others were wary of the MCSO structure that would hire officers with two-year contracts, providing the potential to move on, something that would be new to Hubbard whose police department has mostly been staffed with long-term employees.
"I want Hubbard police; our cops protect us," Keith Leonard said. "If it's the county, then two years down the road we get a new crew. Sorry, but I'm not interested in that."
Both Mayor Thia Estes and Council President Angie Wheatcroft were impressed with the turnout Thursday night.
"It was clear from the meeting last night the people of Hubbard have spoken and they want to keep their Hubbard Police Department," Wheatcroft said in an email Friday.
Estes said she was excited to see the level of engagement.
"In this day and age when law enforcement has so many challenges, it's nice to see our community coming together for it," she said. "This is an amazing opportunity to educate each other, assess our needs and find common ground."
Estes stated it didn't appear that the council would be able to address the topic again until the next scheduled meeting, which is at 7 p.m. July 11. She also mentioned adding an agenda item to consider temporarily hiring a working sergeant and deputy through MCSO to alleviate the short-staffed police department, as well as hiring an outside consultant to assess the city's needs regarding police services.
"We need to educate the public regardless of direction," she said.