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Rebuilding the Gresham police force is the highest priority facing city government. Janine Gladfelter, Jerry Hinton and Cathy Keathley have the best chance of inspiring that change.

Hinton, Gladfelter, KeathleyOver the next several weeks, Gresham voters will cast their ballots on three contested City Council races. This election arrives at a pivotal moment in the city's history when violent crime and property crime are setting new records against the backdrop of a police department in turmoil.

At the center of this drama are three council races, posing the question of which three candidates are more likely to take swift action at restoring law-and-order and rebuilding confidence inside the police department.

Ask Gresham residents for the top issue in this race, most would say the escalation of crime in all its forms and what local government is doing to turn the tide. Gresham residents expect that those elected on Nov. 8 will make public safety their highest priority.

Incumbent candidates Eddy Morales and Mario Palmero have been at the wheel for several years. While both candidates say they support police and advocate for strong law-enforcement, the police officers have experienced declining morale and distrust of the city's elected leadership. The consequence has been an exodus of highly trained and experienced officers, who are departing for what they regard as greener pastures.

Morales and Palmero shoulder partial blame in allowing that to happen. They failed to take actions that would have strengthened the relationship between police and elected city leadership. Their inaction allowed what could have been a small problem to fester until it became a cancer.

To be fair, Morales and Palmero have been unfairly cast as villains in this campaign for City Council. Those who oppose their reelection speak about them as "destroying the Gresham way of life." That's never been true.

Morales and Palmero have brought a spotlight to inclusion, equity, social acceptance, and racial justice, giving a voice to people who did not believe they mattered in the eyes of local government.

Still, Gresham residents can't ignore the hard realities of rising crime and a deflated number of police officers. Morales and Palmero, along with their allies on council, had ample time to address the crisis of law enforcement. But there's been no outward sign of urgency from elected leadership or senior management.

A story published in The Outlook in July 2022 reported the Gresham Police had scuttled its Traffic Unit, Neighborhood Enforcement Team, Transit Division, and recalled personnel assigned as School Resource Officers. At that time, the Police Officers' Association described the Child Abuse Team as being on "life support." There were no officers dedicated to patrolling for dangerous driving, nor was there follow-up on property crimes or assaults.

In 2021, the Gresham PD had 118 sworn officers. Today, the number is 104. But among those are nine recruits who are not yet allowed to solo. Even if Gresham's Police Department was able to return to 118 officers, it would still lag well below the national standard for the ratio of cops-to-residents.

The three people on the ballot deemed most likely to bring urgency to the issue are Cathy Keathley (Position 2), Jerry Hinton (Position 4), and Incumbent City Councilor Janine Gladfelter (Position 6). All three have campaigned on similar platforms of properly funding and supporting the Police Department.

• As an incumbent to Position 6, Gladfelter has been a steady hand on the council since she was elected in 2018. In addition to police, she lists safe neighborhoods, parks and economic growth high on her list of priorities. Gladfelter faces challenger Amanda Orozco-Beach.

Hinton, who is running against Palmero, served eight years on the council from 2012 to 2020. He's hoping to return to the council where he will carry on in his support of public safety, parks and small businesses.

Keathley, who is running against Morales, is no stranger to public service. She has served on the Gresham-Barlow School Board and is a former Gresham City Councilor (1993-94). She is also involved with the Gresham Charter Review Committee and is a board member of 100+ Women Who Care East County. She lists stable funding for police and fire as a top priority.

For Gresham city leadership to rebuild its relationship with law enforcement, it will take the election of people who advocate for police and who will work to build trust within the police department.

In this case, the best bets are Gladfelter, Hinton and Keathley.

But before leaving this topic, The Outlook wants to go on record — LOUDLY. We are recommending this trio only because they have promised to fix Gresham's crisis of law enforcement.

However, The Outlook will immediately withdraw its support of any city councilor who uses their individual vote — or joins with a power majority — to dismantle any of the progress made on social or racial reforms advanced by the current council.

Our endorsement should not be confused as permission to launch a culture war.

The mission is simply stated: Fix the police department, and do no harm. That's especially true for Hinton and Keathley, because they've been the most publicly negative about Morales and Palmero.

Throughout this campaign, Morales, Palmero and Orozco-Beach have been inaccurately characterized as supporting the "defund the police" movement. It's not true.

The Gresham City Council has been — and should continue to be — nonpartisan, defined by kindness, inclusion, equity and equal measure of support for public safety. It's not a choice between one side or another.

Moving forward, councilors should stop vilifying their colleagues just because they don't share specific world views. There are no villains on the Gresham City Council — never have been.

Had Morales and Palmero done more to build bridges and mend fences with the Police Department in the time given to them, we may well have endorsed their reelection. And we very well might endorse them in future, depending on what happens in the next year or two.

OUR ENDORSEMENT:

We're recommending Gladfelter be re-elected to another term. She's a steady presence on the council who warrants another term. She'll continue to advocate for a strong police department among other principled priorities.

Keathley and Hinton are the safer bets over the incumbents for putting the Gresham Police Department on a better heading. We recommend them for election to City Council.


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