EUGENE, Ore. (KMTR) – With tight budgets and big changes in local government spending, an effort was made in Springfield Wednesday to connect local business and non-profit leaders with Lane County's various law enforcement agencies.
As part of the Eugene and Springfield Chamber of Commerce’s multi-month leadership course, more than twenty local business and non-profit leaders spent Wednesday getting a better idea of the challenges facing local police departments and federal agencies.
Eugene Police Chief Pete Kerns and the University of Oregon Police Department’s interim Chief Carolyn McDermed took part in the conversation with leaders getting a chance to ask each chief one-on-one questions in an informal environment.
One of the participants, Executive Director of NextStep Recycling John Barnum says he’s encouraged by the dialogue. Barnum says it helps lead to a better understanding of the changes and challenges the departments are facing.
“When you meet somebody and you have the chance to have a one-on-one conversation with them, you remove some of the preconceived notions you have about the situation,” said Barnum.
“Nobody can make a good decision if [they] don't have the right information. So I am grateful to be getting the right information . . . straight from the horse’s mouth,” said Leanne Murray, a marketing professional in Springfield.
Much of the conversation gravitated to the current state of each department and how current budgets are affecting their work.
For Eugene Police, participants had questions about how the department’s new headquarters on Country Club Road impacts their emergency response times, how the department has changed their response toward crime rates and how a lack of jail beds has impacted the work officers do.
Chief Kerns says the new department location hasn’t hindered officers’ ability to respond to calls. Many times, officers do virtually all of their work out in the field, including writing reports.
Chief Kerns also highlighted how the department has changed from one that used to only respond to crimes that have happened. Over the last few years, the Eugene Police Department (EPD) has adopted a model of data lead policing where the department analyzes crime data, predicts where crime is likely to occur next and then spreads more crime prevention information to those areas. Additionally, the lack of jail beds has impacted the police department, giving it virtually no room to hold people who are arrested for non-violent felony crimes.
For the University of Oregon Police Department (UOPD), participants had questions about what the department’s jurisdiction is, if they have their own jail and why the University is transitioning from a public safety department to a campus police department.
Interim Chief McDermed says the UOPD only has jurisdiction on campus-owned property at this point. However, as a state-certified police department, officers will be able to investigate university-related crime that ventures outside of campus property. The department does not have its own jail; it uses the Lane County Jail.
Also, Chief McDermed says the transition to the department was in part fueled by being able to better respond to the more than 9,600 calls for service it gets on average each year.