Editor's note: This story is part of the News-Times' special series, "Decade in Review." This series features three stories that helped to define each year of the 2010s. These can retell single stories that mattered to readers of the time, a saga that played out across many articles, and even stories that were crowded to the margins by other news at the time but have made a lasting impact on our region.
It had been a long time coming.
For years, the Cornelius Police Department was plagued by persistent complaints and allegations of corruption and bad behavior. In 2012, the city placed the embattled police chief, Paul Rubenstein, on paid administrative leave during a probe into his conduct and other issues at the department.
In what was, in retrospect, a sign that the end was approaching for the Cornelius Police Department, the city brought in an outside hire — Ken Summers, then-undersheriff of Yamhill County — as interim chief.
Summers quickly became a popular figure in Cornelius. He was named permanent chief the following year. But it became clear the city hadn't brought him in to fix the Cornelius Police Department for good.
Summers was candid in his assessment: the agency was in "terminal" condition, and it was time to pull the plug.
"We could fix (the issues with the department), but with the number of years it would take, with the expense, with the heartache we would go through … I just don't see that it's in the best interests of the city," Summers was quoted as saying by The Oregonian/OregonLive.com in January 2014.
Later that month, the Cornelius City Council voted to dissolve the city's police department and contract with the Washington County Sheriff's Office for law enforcement services.
Under the leadership of City Manager Rob Drake, Cornelius had begun exploring the contract option with the Sheriff's Office in 2013; Rubenstein said later he'd been talking to the Sheriff's Office about the idea for some time before his suspension, too. At the time, worries about how expensive the contract would be for a cash-strapped city government looked likely to torpedo the arrangement. But in the end, the city and county reached an agreement.
The end of the Cornelius Police Department as a city-run agency also meant the end of Summers' brief tenure as chief. At the changing of the guard in July 2014, Summers was replaced as chief by a Washington County Sheriff's Office appointee, Lt. Gene Moss.
The changes were apparent immediately. While the Sheriff's Office continues to use the "Cornelius Police Department" brand, squad cars were updated to carry the sheriff's insignia as well. Moss instituted community outreach programs to better acquaint Sheriff's Office personnel with the city and reintroduce the new-look department to residents who had become disillusioned with Cornelius police. One of those enduring traditions is the Cornelius Community Thanksgiving Dinner, which the Sheriff's Office first put on in partnership with the city and the nonprofit Centro Cultural de Washington County in November 2014. It celebrated its sixth year this past Thanksgiving season.
"I've heard nothing but good from citizens and businesspeople about this change," Summers told the News-Times in 2016.
As for Rubenstein, although he officially retired in February 2013, that wasn't the end of his troubles. The former chief maintained he had done nothing unethical, but in 2016, a state board voted to revoke his certification as a police officer.
Rubenstein argued that the officers who came forward in 2012 had a personal vendetta against him. But even the disgraced chief had to agree that, taken all together, his department was in dire straits.
"It was clear that we weren't going to make it," Rubenstein told the News-Times in September 2013. Of the turmoil that ended his tenure as chief, he added, "This is a symptom of 'not going to make it.'"
Today, Cornelius is the largest city in Washington County without a municipal police department, and the second-largest among Portland's Westside suburbs. Wilsonville, at the southern end of the Metro area, has its law enforcement services provided under contract with the Clackamas County Sheriff's Office.
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