Let's not return to County Sheriff's information black hole
We're just putting this out there for consideration as the Estacada city government goes through its process of reviewing its law enforcement contract with the Sandy Police Department: This town is better off with Sandy Police than with the Clackamas County Sheriff's Office.
It was back in 2013 that the Sandy Police began patrolling the streets of Estacada, ending this town's long-standing relationship with Clackamas County. It was said at the time that Estacada was not disappointed with the service it received from the county, but that it would be happier with the service promised by the Sandy Police Department.
From the perspective of the Estacada News — admittedly just one voice in this community — we urge the Estacada City Council to wade carefully into any consideration of renewing a contract with the Clackamas County Sheriff's Office.
Discerning readers of the Estacada News will recognize that since the Sandy Police took over patrols, the community has been well-informed regarding police activities, whether that be in response to crimes against people or property. It's our belief that a well-informed community is a stronger community.
Back when the County Sheriff patrolled Estacada, this newspaper found it next-to-impossible to extract information about law enforcement activities in town. For a price, we could get dreadfully generic reports about the number of crimes occurring in Estacada, but offering no hint as to what neighborhoods were being targeted or the severity of crimes. For a higher price we could access a more detailed description. And if we wanted more information, heaven forbid that we would expect a speedy reply — if at all — from the agency's public information officer.
This newspaper reached a boiling point when the County Sheriff's Office made these reports financially inaccessible. Because these are public records, this had the feeling of government-sanctioned extortion.
The Sandy Police could adopt the same policy of charging for these public records, but we believe this department understands and values a well-informed citizenry. Each week, the Sandy Police delivers a report via email detailing recent police activities in Estacada.
In neighboring Multnomah County, the Sheriff's Office makes information readily available regarding its service to Troutdale, Fairview, Wood Village and Corbett.
As a newspaper serving the Estacada Community, we would be disappointed to see the city return to the days of the information blackhole, where only law enforcement officers and a favored few are privy to crime activity.
We understand why the Estacada city government wants to review its law enforcement contract, particularly if the city is interested in a heightened law enforcement presence. We even understand why police from Oregon City or elsewhere may be brought into the conversation. But in any case, we would respectfully ask that one small component of the conversation consider the value of public communication.
To illustrate this point further, please turn to Page 4 of today's edition, where you'll see this week's Police Log. This information, provided by the Sandy Police Department, would not be available to our readers if the city of Estacada were to contract with Clackamas County.
Steve Brown is publisher of The Estacada News, Sandy Post and Gresham Outlook. These newspapers are part of the Pamplin Media Group.