The COVID-19 pandemic has delayed the process but Tigard has hired eight new officers along with an SRO.

PMG FILE PHOTO - Tigard Police Chief Kathy McAlpine says while COVID-19 delayed some plans regarding the May 2020 levy, the police department has hired eight new officers as promised.Five of the eight Tigard Police Department officers promised as part of Tigard's 2020 local option levy are on patrol, a recent city report card on the levy shows.

"We've hired the eight officers. They have been trained. What is a little deceiving is we still have vacancies because of other attrition," Chief Kathy McAlpine said during a recent update on the levy, approved by voters in May 2020.

The other three officers are in the process of being trained.

McAlpine said the hiring the eight officers the levy affords has helped Tigard for the long term, especially through the COVID-19 pandemic.

"This allowed us to keep continuing to provide the level of service that they've always known and come to expect," she said. "Those officers helped us keep afloat and keep providing the service that this community expects and deserves, and we're just very grateful for that."

The levy provided for the hiring of a school resource officer, which means there is now an on-campus officer at Tigard High School as well as both of Tigard's middle schools: Twality and Fowler.

As approved by voters, the levy also calls for all officers to take a 40-hour course in advanced crisis intervention and de-escalation. While some have taken the class, there are still 27 Tigard Police Department personnel — detectives, officers and school resource officers — who need that advanced training, McAlpine said. Again, the COVID-19 pandemic has delayed getting those employees through, the chief explained.

"What was unexpected is this 40-hour advanced training is not one that can be done in the virtual world. There's a lot of role-playing, hands-on (demonstrations)," McAlpine said. "Both Washington County and Clackamas County have these curriculums that require a lot of interaction and dialogue."

For her part, she said, McAlpine doesn't believe having all officers trained in that crisis intervention and de-escalation training would have led to a different outcome in the case of Jacob Macduff, who was shot and killed by a then-Tigard police officer, Gabriel Maldonado, on Jan. 6, 2021.

Following reviews by both the Washington County District Attorney's Office and the Oregon Department of Justice, a Washington County grand jury declined to indict Maldonado, who has since left the Tigard Police Department, on any charges related to Macduff's death.

However, in July, Tigard agreed to pay Macduff's mother $3.8 million, albeit without acknowledging fault or liability on the part of the city.

McAlpine said the city had a trained negotiator talking to Macduff for more than an hour.

"He was non-communicative. He wasn't listening," she said about officers trying to talk Macduff out of his vehicle. A report last year found that Maldonado believed Macduff was reaching for a weapon.

"There's no indication that … a street officer would have any other effect," McAlpine said. "We had the highest of the highest level trained, and that is a crisis negotiator, on scene right from the get-go."

Another goal of the 2020 levy is reducing police emergency response times. McAlpine said that benchmark would be getting to a scene five minutes and under, something that has yet to be accomplished by any police agency in Washington County.

As of last year, the levy had yet to make a dent in response times.

The average Tigard Police Department emergency response time in 2021 was 6 minutes, 17 seconds, according to city data. It was 6:01 in 2020 and 6:11 in 2019.

McAlpine said there is no industry standard when it comes to responding to emergency calls.

"Five minutes, to me, is a good goal to have when you're talking about in-progress calls," the chief said, adding that the difficulty is making it from one side of the city to the other. "You're having to navigate traffic, congestion and all of those things, and so the whole hope was with these eight patrol officers, they would be geographically dispersed in parts of the city, and in theory, our response time is going to get a little quicker."

The bigger goal is to have the ability to handle two high-priority calls, such as calls involving someone who has a weapon or a robbery in progress, at the same time, said the chief.

While not part of levy money, last year, Tigard also purchased 80 body-worn cameras for the police department, along with 33 in-dash/fleet cameras.

"What this allowed us to do is to ensure that every sworn officer — so 74 officers all the way up — have not only the body-worn camera, but the upgraded dash cam and the technology that will automatically turn on if you pull out your Taser (or gun)," said McAlpine. "So, it's the state-of-the-art equipment that we were able to upgrade and deploy throughout all of our uniformed personnel."

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