Council grills police chief

Published in the Argus Observer November 14, 2014.
It was a full house for Thursday’s noon City Council work session. All Council members were present and fiercely questioned Ontario Police Chief Mark Alexander on the issue of public safety in Ontario.

“We received that ICMA report two months ago,” Councilor Tuttle said. “My question to you is are we going to see some kind of a plan or study from you and the City Manager on what we’re going to do about this crime rate?”

Tuttle explained Ontario has the worst crime rate per capita in the state of Oregon. The City of Ontario spent over $50,000 on a study conducted by the Internal City/County Management Association, who reported their findings to the City Council in September. Published in the Argus Observer November 14, 2014.

“I voted no for this study, just because of what’s happening,” Councilor Jones said. “Mark, we’ve spent fifty-some thousand dollars on this study to come into this town and evaluate your department. They were adamant about this change in scheduling. All the sudden you say ‘I don’t like it, so we’re not going to do it’ so the $50,000 goes out the window. This is insane.”

The ICMA report suggested the Ontario Police Department adjust the scheduling of their employees in order to be more efficient and create a plan to address the city’s crime rate.

“There was a progress report on some of the issues in [the ICMA report],” Alexander explained to the Council. “The schedule is one part of that, but on crime rates, they account that to resources and some of the [resource] limitations we have.”

Alexander had a discussion in a work session on October 30 with the City Council on the topic of public safety and has told the Council he believes they should move two patrol officers to detective positions and possibly hire a captain.  The two parties discussed scheduling in executive session. Counselor Tuttle and Counselor Jones were both absent from that work session as well as the executive session.

Tuttle asked Alexander why there had been no action taken on the conversations Alexander has had with the council.

“I am not in a position to fund those resources at this point,” Alexander answered

Counselor Fox inquired as to why they hadn’t seen a plan, written by Alexander, outlining ways to address the crime rate.

“Couldn’t you at least make a plan so we can look at it and tell the constituents, ‘hey, we’re working on getting this city to be a safer city,’” Fox asked.

Alexander explained though he disagreed with ICMA’s recommendation for scheduling, he thinks the ICMA report presented a good plan for city safety.

“I’m telling you, this is priority number one,” Jones said. “We’ve got to get a grip and a plan and an action. Get a plan and manage it.”

Jones and Tuttle both questioned the addition of personnel to the Oregon Police Department’s staff.

“Stop a minute with the extra officers,” Jones said. “We have spent good money on this study and we’re going to use it. We have got to start somewhere with the group that you have and then if you can manage it then we’ll add some people.”

Mayor Cammack stepped in and reminded Jones and Tuttle that both of them weren’t at the previous works session or the executive session in which public safety was discussed.

“If you would have been here, you would know what’s going on,” Cammack said. “You don’t know. You need to take a look at the minutes of the last meeting and then make a judgement.”

Tuttle reminded Cammack the discussion was held in executive session. Tori Barnett, Interim City Manager and City Recorder reminded the council that the executive sessions are recorded and those recordings can be made available to Council members upon their request. She suggested those who missed the meeting listen to the recording.

“Some of us are here more often than other people,” Councilor Crume said. “It seems like when people are gone, they make accusations to a lot of damn fine employees here that are working their butts off to do the job that we’ve asked them to do.”

Crume explained that Alexander and Barnett are in the process of doing the job the Council’s consensus directed them to do and said they shouldn’t be condemned for their actions.

“I’m going to keep speaking up like this every time this is done because I’m tired of it,” Crume said.

Mayor Cammack ended the discussion asking Alexander if he had anything to add. Alexander invited the Council members on a ride-along with one of his officers and offered his office for any further questions.

“If anybody wants to come in and see me, come in,” Alexander said. “You guys are always welcome.”

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