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The Times sat down with the new chiefs of police for Beaverton, Tigard and Tualatin. The following is Part 1 of a four-part series.

TIMES PHOTO: JAIME VALDEZ - From left: Chiefs Bill Steele of Tualatin, Jim Monger of Beaverton and Kathy McAlpine of Tigard.In June 2016, the City of Tualatin named Bill Steele as its new chief of police.

Beaverton followed suit in January when Jim Monger was selected as police chief.

Then, in March, it was Tigard's turn, when Kathy McAlpine took the top job.

In less than one calendar year, all three top law enforcement along Washington County's eastern edge boasted new leadership.

The Times sat down with all three chiefs on May 26 to ask them about the challenges and changes they see in their communities. Steele, Monger and McAlpine covered a wide array of issues, ranging from the growth and diversity of the region; "sanctuary" cities and tensions with the African-American community; traffic enforcement; recruitment of officers; and common misunderstandings about law enforcement, among other topics.

The Times will run articles throughout the month, based on the chiefs' interview. These online transcripts of the interview have been edited for clarity and length.

Topics this week:

• Suburban policing

• Sharing resources between agencies

• Quickly growing county

• Future growth throughout county

Question:

How is suburban policing different today, from when you all got started?

Chief Jim Monger of Beaverton: Part of it is, unlike a larger city, you've got multiple law enforcement that are right next to each other, and also the Sheriff's Office. Probably the biggest challenge we have is working together. And we work together very well. Our cities touch each other at this point — at one time they didn't … and in the 30 years that I've been here, we have always worked well with Tigard and with Tualatin and Hillsboro and the Sheriff's Office. There's just been a great working relationship as far as the smaller agencies working with each other.

Chief Bill Steele of Tualatin: What I would add on is just that, for our local area, our county has been growing at such a rapid pace for a number of years. If it is a challenge, it's something for law enforcement to try to keep pace with that … handling day-to-day activities, but also maintaining staffing levels and having those resources available to meet those needs. We're in a pretty good spot now, but you know, there were economy issues a few years ago, and I think a number of agencies are still struggling to get back to the levels they were at prior to, and again, just to maintain the resources needed to get the job done today.

Question:

How do you share resources? Some departments have assets that others don't.

Steele: Like Chief Monger said, we've got such a great working relationship amongst the agencies in this county, which I would put up against almost anywhere else in this country. There are inter-agency teams that are out there fighting hard every day in a number of different ways that people might not realize. Whether its a tactical team or a crisis negotiation team, we've got inter-agency departments that work with transit, crash-reconstruction teams; there's so much sharing of resources that occurs over here. It makes our jobs a little bit easier in some ways, because when an incident happens in any one of our jurisdictions we can rely on the partners that we have to bring in experts in whatever areas are needed to get the job done.

Chief Kathy McAlpine of Tigard: With the perspective of having come from Tacoma, and being pretty much self-sufficient and stand-alone, to come here and one: quickly understand the regional assets that are here and see it play out, whether it's just a call-in patrol that ends up, meeting all of the resources of the surrounding areas, to the specialty teams, when you're talking about the negotiation team or EOD (explosive ordinance disposal) or the dogs … I get to see the pitching in. It's all about resolving the situation for the time being and not worrying about jurisdictional lines. I'm very impressed thus far on the cooperation that I see.

Monger: One example is the AVL or the Automated Vehicle Locator dispatch …. When a priority call comes in, the dispatcher will send the closest law enforcement officer to that location. Not concerned about the jurisdiction, or lines on a map; it really doesn't matter. We're going to send cops to that call, and get the public served, and stabilize the scene as quickly as we can. Once that's done, as far as jurisdiction — is it Tigard, Tualatin, Sheriff's Office, even Portland? — we'll figure that out afterwards. But the most important thing is to get law enforcement personnel, whoever's closest, to that location to service the call initially. People are in need of law enforcement: We can get there, and get there quickly.

Steele: It really takes a little bit of the burden off of the person in need of help. They just pick up that phone and make that call and said, "I need help," and they're getting help. They don't need to say, I need the Tualatin Police Department, or the Beaverton Police Department. We can help and that's on us to make sure that people get the help they need.

Question:

The county is growing quickly, and growing more diverse.

McAlpine: I think it's an opportunity. I think it's fully embraced here. Obviously, with the concerns of immigration and sanctuary communities, we have an opportunity to reach out to our community and have those intentional dialogues, so we can assure them that we are here for them if they are in need of our services. I think the diversity is another part of what makes this area really special.

Question:

Washington County is going to grow considerably in the next few years. What stress does the potential for future growth add to your departments?

Steele: I think that's important. It comes down to strategic planning for us, and identifying those challenges that we are going to be facing, and starting to get the plan in place to address them, well before they get here. Because if we're waiting until it actually happens, we're going to be so far behind the game, we're not going to be able to catch up.

McAlpine: The whistle has blown. We're hearing it. We know that today or tomorrow, you're not going to, all of a sudden, get a pot of money and be able to double your force. So it's a combination of things: it's educating the community on our needs, and how they might change. For Tigard, you're used to seeing an officer on every call. It may not be that way. We may ask you to do a phone report. We may do some adjustments because we can't meet the current needs. And the other part is, for me, the responsibility is to go to the city manager and the council to say, "These are our needs. This is what I'm seeing." If we're already know that River Terrace is coming, and that alone could have 6,500 people, and some of the other (developments) … with Beaverton's high school, we know that kids don't know the borders, and we're going to have some of them coming over…

Monger: Oh sure, blame it on us.

McAlpine: (Laughs). Having those conversations now, planting those seeds and making even small adjustments, I think that is our responsibility. At the same time, knowing that we are going to need additional resources to meet the needs of the community.

Steele: There's an upside to this, though... this is a great place to live, work and play. People are coming here for a reason. In the future, when we're looking for new employees to come work for us, we want people that enjoy being here.

Monger: (regarding recruiting of officers) In my view, 2017 is in the rearview mirror, it's done, and we're looking at 2018 and 2019, realizing that the officer that you hire today is not going to be productive individual on the street for at least a year; most likely, 18 months, with all the training and everything that needs to happen. We're looking at the services that we provide, and our goal is to not reduce any of those services. I think the (Tigard) philosophy of "no call too small," we share that same philosophy. I think it's actually kind of a Washington County philosophy that we all embrace. We're also looking at significant retirements that are coming up. I did some forecasting and, in the next four years, we're probably going to lose about 25 to 30 people in the agency, and that's a significant number. It takes time to hire people, to train people, to promote people. So we're looking at, not only first-year officer coming in, but what are our sergeants and our lieutenants and our command staff needing down the road. It's our obligation to plan for that. So that way, the department's not surprised and the community is receiving the services that they want. I need to brag just a little bit, because you talked about staffing and such: Last night at the city's Budget Committee (meeting), we actually were authorized to add two new police officers to our staffing. But the commitment was that these two officers, when they come on board … they will be out answering 911 calls. They're not for special teams, they're not additional admin or detectives or anything like that. These are two officers who are going to be dedicated to our patrol staff. Again, because you'd mentioned that the area's getting bigger, it's expanding, and we need to make sure that the patrol staff, that those folks who are answering those 911 calls, that we're properly staffed. That when our partner agencies need help, we've got the help there. It's not just Beaverton planning, it's the local agencies' planning. We had some staff-crunches a good number of years ago that had to do with the K-9 program. The county agencies got together and actually scheduled when the K-9 officers were going to be on duty countywide. That way, if you were going to be needing a dog, it wouldn't necessarily be a Beaverton dog, or a county dog, or a Tigard dog, or a Tualatin dog — you needed a canine, and it came from some place in the county. I'm really confident that if we get to a staffing crunch to that level, that the agencies in Washington County will work together like we always have and, like Bill said, we'll solve the problem.

McAlpine: I think what Chief Monger's point is, Tigard was also very fortunate in a several years to get additional resources in the last budget cycle, for four officers, which is pretty significant. But as mentioned here, we have filled three of the four one year later because, during that time, we also had retirements. So not only were we filling in for the four new ones, but we got these other vacancies. So again, we won't see the fruits of that labor until about a year and a half by the time they get through all of the hiring process, the academy and then the training portion of it. Again, forecasting, looking ahead three steps is important, because it does take a while. And you lose all that institutional knowledge of your senior leadership, your senior patrol officer. And that's a significant impact as well.

Mark Miller and Jaime Valdez contributed to this report.

The Three Chiefs series:

June 8

• Suburban policing

• Sharing resources between agencies

• Quickly growing county

• Future growth throughout county

June 15

• "Sanctuary" cities

• Tensions with African-American community

June 22

• Community Policing

• Traffic enforcement

• Traffic congestion

• Recruiting new officers

June 29

• Common misunderstandings of police work

• Impact of social media and the internet

• School resource officers

By Dana Haynes
Managing Editor
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