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Small suburban forces want more calls, not fewer, seeking partnership with the community

It seems people are suspicious in West Linn.

An examination by Pamplin Media Group of four months of police log records found that from March to June 2019 an average of 37% of calls in West Linn that police responded to were due to cases of threat, suspicion and/or harassment. PMG FILE PHOTO - West Linn Police Department has three times as many officers as neighboring Wilsonville, and four times as many calls for service. WLPD prefers it that way, however, insisting that an involved citizen population helps officers get to know the community.

Compare that to the number of calls for auto-related incidents (28%) or calls regarding theft, robbery and/or fraud (9%) and questions arise. 

To put that 37% figure into a larger context, the neighboring city of Wilsonville — which has a similar population — had just 12% of its calls from the police department categorized as  threat, suspicion and/or harassment over the same four-month span.

When asked whether he'd like to see a higher or lower number of calls coming in from the community, West Linn Police Chief Terry Kruger said, "I don't want any calls for service. I want a community where no one is breaking the law, and they don't need us. Unfortunately that's not reality. There's plenty of job security in the world because human beings are capable of amazing things." 

While Kruger did not comment about the fact that over a third of the calls coming into the police department were due to suspicion, threat and/or harassment — typically unfounded or low in danger — he also was quick to point out that West Linn isn't a typical location to be a police officer.

"We tell our new officers that this is an affluent community that has a really good relationship with its police. We don't have an adversarial relationship in this community — which is a blessing in this day and age — and we want to maintain that," Kruger said. "They expect a high level of service, and we want to give it to them. We are a small enough community that we can provide additional services to them."

That West Linn — which has 30 licensed officers — expects a high level of service comes as no surprise when looking at the data. In the same police log comparison of West Linn versus Wilsonville — which has 11 licensed officers — West Linn received four times as many calls as Wilsonville.

Encouraging reliance on police

Police in both cities see each call — whether it's absurd or deathly serious — as just another aspect of their job. In fact, in communities like Wilsonville, the police department would like to have the call logs emulate that of a city like West Linn. Wilsonville Police Chief Robert Wurpes noted that without an active community, their jobs are made more difficult.

"We can't do this job alone," he said. "I have a handful of guys. There's no way they know what's going around this town at every given moment. But you know who does? All the community people who live in a neighborhood and go, 'That's out of place.' If we have a higher volume of suspicious stuff — perfect. Our messaging has been: if you see something, say something. Because you, as the neighbor, know that, hey, that guy doesn't belong here. And then

they call and sometimes it's a shady guy, sometimes it's just a guy walking his dog.


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