Woodburn's police chief plans major reorganization of department
New structure eliminates captain positions, adds deputy chief, among other changes
Woodburn Police Chief Jim Ferraris is in the midst of reorganizing his department, with the goal of increasing accountability, efficiency and, most importantly to citizens, having supervisors spend more time on the street.
City Administrator Scott Derickson tasked Ferraris with looking at overhauling the departments organization when he hired the chief last December. Ferraris, who has served in nearly every police position from patrol to deputy chief, brought his 38 years of experience to the task, along with input from former chief Scott Russell and by looking to other police agencies for insight.
The goal is to flatten the organization and push as many resources to the line, so we have more time and attention out in the field to serve our community better, Ferraris said.
To streamline operations and relieve line supervisors of administrative burdens, the chief plans to eliminate two captains positions, hire a deputy chief of police and create two lieutenant positions as division commanders. Ferraris is reorganizing the department into four divisions:
Operations to include patrol and K-9
Community response detectives, community service, code enforcement, crime prevention, outreach and community events.
Support services evidence, records, fiscal tracking and IT coordination.
Office of the chief emergency management, budgets, day-to-day management.
Recruitment of a deputy chief is ongoing, and Ferraris hopes to have a candidate identified sometime in October. The deputy chief position falls between the division commanders and the chief on the organization chart. Ferraris said a deputy chief will free up his time for more community outreach and long-range planning for the departments growth as Woodburns population increases.
All of us in administration, after this reorganization is complete, are going be realizing more administrative work, taking a load off the sergeants so they can be out on the street serving the community at the line level, Ferraris said.
Last year, Woodburn officers responded to more than 15,000 calls for service, a higher rate than many similarly-sized cities. Ferraris said a large percentage of those calls included property crime, auto theft, domestic violence and sexual abuse cases.
Much of the property crime is driven by heroin addiction, which weve seen an explosion in, and meth addiction, which has done nothing but increase over the last year throughout the (Willamette) Valley, Ferraris said.
It really makes our officers feel valued and they know they are beloved by this community. And we dont take that for granted. We have to work hard for that every single day.
Super labs in Mexico supply most of the heroin and meth trade, and Woodburn is along the main transport route between Mexico and Canada. Ferraris said police are seeing an increasing number of people turning to heroin as a cheap alternative to prescription drug addictions. Heroin, according to Ferraris, is actually cheaper than oxycodone, which can cost up to $80 for an 80-milligram pill.
Its a pretty cheap alternative but its dangerous, he said. Its highly addictive, and when that monkey gets on someones back, they are going to turn to crime to be able to survive with that addiction.
The reorganization is taking place within the departments 2016-17 budget, meaning there wont be additional funding. Woodburn currently has 34 sworn officers and 8.5 full-time equivalent administrative positions. The reshuffling of the command structure creates opening for two lieutenants, which could come from within the departments sergeant ranks. Although he will advertise widely for the positions, Ferraris said he is confident the department has qualified officers to fill at least some of the openings.
My goal is to have the best people possible in the positions, Ferraris said.
In addition to one presently open sergeant position, if both lieutenant posts are filled internally, it could create up to three vacant sergeant positions.
Thats going to stimulate upward movement in the department, Ferraris said. Its going to invigorate people. Line folks are going to see their peers moving up.
Ferraris said that Woodburn and other police agencies struggle with recruiting qualified candidates. A national movement questioning police actions and a thriving economy where big businesses offer recent college graduates six figure incomes make it hard to recruit for police work with its lower pay, the prospect of working graveyard shifts and holidays, not to mention the daily dangers of the job.
I have three vacancies in the department Im actively recruiting for, and I just dont have a lot of candidates to choose from, Ferraris said. We ran a month-long recruitment and we just extended it to Sept. 6.
Another obstacle in the hiring process, Ferraris noted, is not just finding candidates, but getting applicants who can pass a background check and police medical and psychological exam.
And Im not willing to lower our departments standards to get people through the door, Ferraris said. We have to maintain our standards as a profession because trust and integrity and all the values we stand for are the hallmark of our existence.
Although police face a sometimes hostile response from the public elsewhere in the country, Ferraris said the support offered to Woodburn officers from the local community has been fantastic. The department has received flowers, letters, emails of support and even baked goods.
When there is all that negativity out there in terms of assaults on police officers and murder of police officers, and then our community counters that with all this support, its a huge morale boost, Ferraris said. It really makes our officers feel valued and they know they are beloved by this community. And we dont take that for granted. We have to work hard for that every single day.