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Police chief seeks to find roles for three patrol officers back on the Sandy beat

After five years of receiving police services from the Sandy Police Department (SPD), the city of Estacada has decided to end its contract with the neighboring law enforcement agency. In October, the city will enter into a new agreement with Clackamas County.

When the city of Sandy initially received a letter from Estacada City Manager Denise Carey earlier this year, Carey cited a desire for more patrol hours as a reason the task force was exploring other options. On the Sandy contract, Estacada received 80 hours of patrol time a week.

Among the members of the subcommittee that prompted the exploration for new policing options are Estacada Mayor Sean Drinkwine and Councilors Luke Wever and Aaron Gant.

The task force sent a letter to SPD in January, explaining that they would be taking bids from other policing agencies.

"We could have provided that if they just wanted more hours," Sandy Police Chief Ernie Roberts said. "They want 24-hour police coverage, but they can't afford it."

The annual cost of the original contract with SPD was about $430,000. That paid for three patrol officers and one half-time code enforcement officer.

In March, the SPD had a meeting lined up with the Estacada group, a day after the Clackamas County Sheriff's Office's meeting.

"During that meeting one member told me they'd already decided the day before to go with the county," Roberts noted. "I've been focusing on the budget since the letter in January. I did not put in a bid ... because I felt like it was a waste of my time. At that point I had to completely focus on the budget issues of bringing any officers back."

The Sandy Police Department budgets, Roberts added, "are tight."

"The amount of money I have for operating the department for two years is what I have," he said. "I always look at the budget — and I think to be a good steward of taxpayer money you have to look at the budget — like it's your own money. For a city this size, $400,000 is a lot, and we need the officers back here in Sandy."

Besides being low on funds, the department is understaffed, unable to keep up with Sandy's booming population.

"We've had a longtime goal of having two officers on patrol at all times," Roberts noted. "Having those officers back here would bring us closer to that goal."

In order to afford bringing the three Estacada officers back to serve Sandy, Roberts and his staff, along with sandy City Manager Kim Yamashita, created retirement packages to offer as incentives to current staff members.

"We offered it to everybody — we just wanted to be fair," Roberts added. "I was very concerned about the possibility of a layoff ... but you have to look at (things like the contract ending) as an opportunity. I focused on the positive aspects. I have plenty of work here. And, it was a lot of work to be responsible for two cities, let alone one."

Sandy Police will still serve the community of Estacada until October, and Roberts said he plans to help make the transition from Sandy to Clackamas County services as "smooth" as possible.

"I've assured the city of Estacada my officers are very passionate about their work, and they'll give 100 percent until the end," Roberts said. "We want what's best for the citizens there. They deserve the best police coverage, like every city does."

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