Tigard police levy would add eight patrol officers, another school resource officer
Voters have until May 19 to determine whether to approve Measure 34-295, Tigard's local option levy that would add eight new patrol officers and a school resource officer to the Tigard Police Department. In addition, the measure would pay for officers to receive training on intervention techniques and how to de-escalate a potentially dangerous situation.
The measure would levy 29 cents per $1,000 of assessed property value as a tax. For typical Tigard house with an assessed value of $280,000, that would be an $81 increase in the household's annual property taxes if it's passed.
"Unlike most other local cities, Tigard has never had a local option levy," Mayor Jason Snider said in a recent email. "The city has achieved this over more than 20 years by being good stewards of public dollars. For example, no Tigard staff outside the police department have been on PERS (Public Employees Retirement System) for decades. This has also meant no increase in police staffing over decades while our community has grown 19,000 residents."
City and police officials have long said that there are not enough officers in the city's five patrol districts, where minimum patrol staffing has remained the same — three to four officers on duty per shift — for the last 25 years.
The biggest worry, they say, is the ability to respond to two major incidents that occur in the city at the same time.
In May 2018, voters turned down a local option levy that would have put money towards police, library and parks maintenance operations failed. This time around, however, the levy concentrates on only one issue.
"This levy is totally focused on providing police services," Snider said. "That is our top community priority. Money collected from this local option levy can only be used to provide the police services described in the levy."
While two prior surveys have not shown overwhelming public interest in a levy, Snider made it clear in a March interview with the Pamplin Media Group's editorial board that he is adamant about the necessity of having a well-staffed and rested police force.
"It is a real problem. It is not one we made up," Snider said at the time. "The situation cannot continue as is."
At that same meeting, Tigard City Council President John Goodhouse noted that when residents in the second survey were told there's a staffing shortage at the police department, they were more understanding of the need for the levy.
Tigard Police Chief Kathy McAlpine said at the time that working with a minimum of staffing creates problems with officers who may have just responded to an emotionally-charged situation such as the death of an infant or a domestic violence call, and then immediately summoned to a call such as a theft.
"When you go from call to call, you don't get time to decompress," she said, adding while the goal is to have officers always express empathy to residents, something that might be diminished if officers get no down time. While the city's crimes against persons are down, societal crimes — driving under the influence of intoxicants and homelessness/trespassing issues — have increased, she said.
Snider also pointed out that Tualatin, Tigard's neighbor to the south, has a similarly sized police force — for a city that is twice as small. Tigard has 69 sworn officers.
Tigard officials have pointed out that an independent audit conducted in 2019 called for adding eight more officers and one more school resource officer in order to address service demands.
Ballots are due by 8 p.m. on May 19. Because of the closure of libraries due to the COVID-19 pandemic, only the Banks Public Library and Hillsboro's Brookwood Library will have drop boxes available. However, many city offices throughout Washington County have drop-off sites. Check the Washington County Elections Division for drop site locations.
You count on us to stay informed and we depend on you to fund our efforts. Quality local journalism takes time and money. Please support us to protect the future of community journalism.