Like many cities Salem, Oregon is trying to ‘reform’ its police department or at least reform police response. We are having trouble with funding a new force of responders. My solution to the problem is below.
The proposed Goals and Objectives of the SPD include the list below for Safety.
1. Enhance community livability. Assist community partners in addressing some of the community livability issues of highest concern, such as unsheltered persons, addiction and drug use, behavioral health issues, and traffic safety.
2. Increase community safety efforts. Engage individuals and groups in proactive crime prevention strategies, including increased educational opportunities to address serious crime issues such as gun violence, child abuse, and domestic violence.
3. Enhance employee safety and wellness. Acknowledge and address ongoing on-the-job employee safety and wellness issues. This includes updated safety equipment and training, as well as coordinating wellness efforts throughout the department.
These are the goals of a Cahoots-type Peace Officer, a new division in the SPD. Instead of hoping the county applies for money for a Cahoots-type program for Salem, add a new division to the SPD that performs the same role. These Peace Officers would be recruited from the ranks of officers on the force and from new applicants. The Peace Officers would be given an increase in pay because they will be given substantial additional training in de-escalation, medical assistance, etc. at least as much as Cahoots people.
Because the SPD has a new division, they will have a good reason to expect an increase in their budget, one that even BLM folks could support. The SPD spends at least 30% of patrol officer time dealing with homeless, mental health, and other issues best addressed with a Cahoots-type responder. The Peace Officers would not be armed. Because many would be drawn from the ranks of the SPD, the communication and trust between the Peace Officers and other SPD employees would be stronger than if they were an outside agency.
Having the Peace Officers as a division eliminates the need for an entirely new bureaucracy. They also would have plenty of office space available in the new HQ. Because Salem’s Peace Officers would be paid about twice as much as Eugene’s Cahoots staff, we could expect to have some very experienced people from Eugene apply.
Generally, bureaucrats don’t want a new agency competing for budget and staff. They also don’t want to have their tasks given to another agency. By creating a division of Peace Officers within the SPD, Police Chief Warnock gets more budget, staff, and authority. He also gets to be a leader in the police reform movement.
Some say that they like the separation of Police from Cahoots because people don’t trust police officers. The separation for the public would be clear because Peace Officers would wear a different uniform, maybe wear white hats, and not carry guns. They would drive different vehicles and perform different tasks.