Klamath Falls, Ore. – On Thursday, May 4th another Law Enforcement Roundtable was held at the County Commissioners’ office. In case you don’t know, the Roundtable meetings/discussions are when officials from the City and County law enforcement agencies, come together to make sure everyone is on the same page. Things like are we all communicating the same message and is every department serving the citizens in the best way possible? They also discuss cost saving measures that when put in place will help to run the City and County law agencies as efficiently as possible.
Present at the Roundtable were Klamath County Commissioners Kelley Minty Morris and Derrick DeGroot, KFPD Chief David Henslee, Kiki Parker Rose – Director of Klamath County Community Corrections, Dan Golden – Director of the Klamath County Juvenile Department, Paralegal Melina Johnson, Interim District Attorney Victoria Roe, Klamath County Sheriff Chris Kaber and City Manager Nathan Cherpeski. It was hosted by Commissioner Donnie Boyd.
KFPD Chief Henslee started by giving a brief background as to the history of law enforcement policies in the past here in Klamath, where we are at today and what is working and what needs to be changed so it will work better.
Looking back about 15 years or so, Chief Henslee explained how at that time, we don’t know but possibly due to budget restrictions, no city crime was prosecuted. No municipal crime.
For example, if an officer saw someone publicly drinking alcohol, which is against the law, they could write them a citation – however, since that kind of crime wasn’t prosecuted at that time, the person drinking liquour in public could literally just laugh and throw away the ticket, knowing there were no consequences. Same thing with appearing in court. It’s a crime to fail to appear, however 15 years ago it wasn’t enforced.
Another example was given by Chief Henslee using shoplifiting. In years prior, if someone was caught shoplifting, they’d get a citation/ticket. It was up to about 60-80 tickets being written a month, just for shoplifting. However, once shoplifters started to be arrested instead of just ticketed, there was a noticeable difference. The 60-80 a month became about 20 a month.
Chief Henslee said once Klamath started recriminalizing the code, started to prosecute crime, they could then put people in jail for failing to appear in court or failing to pay their fines. Once they could arrest people for 2nd Failure to Appear or 2nd Failure to Comply, they saw approximately a 20% success rate.
Crime won’t get better if people know they can get away with things. As Chief Henslee said “People need to know if you don’t show up in court, or don’t pay (your fine) we’ll work with you, but you will be held accountable.”
So recriminalizing the code has definitely helped. Another factor that’s helping Klamath be a safer place to live, is the Community Service program that Kiki Parker Rose is involved with. Ms. Parker Rose explained another process that’s helping to streamline things. She said that members from the Klamath Basin Behavioral Health (KBBH) are physically in the municipal courtrooms. So if there is a defendant who needs Mental Health services, it’s taken care of there and then, no waiting.
Still one more project that will help to save time and money in the law process is video arraignments. This helps to cut costs since prisoners don’t have to physically be transported to their arraignment. It can all be done via Skype.
Commissioner Kelley Minty Morris said she’d like to see people who tag/graffiti be prosecuted. Most everyone there seemed to agree on that as well.
One more change that’s been for the better. Warrants for people who live in the City of Klamath Falls are also housed at the Sheriff’s office. So if it’s 2am and a County Deputy pulls over someone they can quickly find out if that suspect has any warrants out for them.
The County is also in the process of solidifying a volunteer based group of code enforcers. This group is mostly made up of 5-6 different citizens, most of them retired, and some of them former officers from Kingsley and some are in real estate. These Code Enforcers go out and take pictures/make notes of violations they see around the County. For instance, if you have a couch sitting in your front yard that will be notated. You would then get a letter asking you to remove it in a certain number of days. After that number of days is up, if the couch is still there, you could be fined a certain amount. These are not officers of the law, just concerned citizens who have time to look around and see how the City and County can be better. They then turn in their information to the County Commissioner’s staff who take it from there, and get the info to either KFPD or the Sheriff’s Dept.
Come this summer we might be seeing a lot less of Commissioners DeGroot and Boyd. They have decided to do a traveling Town Hall circuit, around the County. They’ll be here in Klamath Falls of course but also outlying areas. The Town Halls will basically be to educate people about “this is where your tax dollars go, these are the services you are getting” etc.
Also, the Commissioners are discussing maybe joining forces with KFPD and the Sheriff’s Department to talk at school assemblies. Some high school and junior high students may not realize a) something they might be doing is a crime and b) if you are caught committing a crime, just how far reaching that goes. It can affect your future in a number of ways, college acceptance, being hired for jobs – things high school kids may not think about ahead of time.
The next Law Enforcement Roundtable will be in about 6 weeks or so.