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City pulls plug on possible night sheriff patrol contract

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The proposal had been put forward in a feasability study released last year but never gained traction

GAZETTE FILE PHOTO - Sherwood will not pursue the possibility of a contract with the Washington County Sheriffs Department to provide night patrols between the hours of 1 and 6 a.m.The city has dropped plans to pursue a contract with the Washington County Sheriff's Department to provide night patrol services to the city from 1 to 6 a.m. daily.

On Feb. 21, the council agreed it wouldn't move forward with any type of plans to seek sheriff's deputies for patrols during low-call volumes in the early morning hours.

Last year, a consulting firm suggested the city could look into contracting with the sheriff's department when police have a 91 percent proactive time or a time when they aren't responding directly to calls for service. That could free up officers for other duties, officials said at the time.

Mayor Krisanna Clark said the recommendation put forward by Matrix Consulting Group didn't seem to have universal support in the community.

"I haven't heard a huge upswell of support," she said. "It wasn't embraced wholeheartedly."

During a meeting between the Sherwood City Council and the Sherwood Police Advisory Board several months ago, Chief Jeff Groth had said an advantage to contracting with the county would mean the city could reallocate officers and a sergeant to other needed duties during daytime hours.

But the night staffing query proved to be a political football as well.

It was one of the questions posed during a council/mayor election forum in November, and the Sherwood Police Officers Association, the union representing the city's patrol officers, wrote a letter to the editor to the Sherwood Gazette supporting Gail Cutsforth, Mayor Clark's opponent. The letter specifically mentioned Cutsforth's opposition to contracting with Washington County as the union's main reason for supporting her.

The $38,000 feasability study made other recommendations as well including moving to a 12-hour patrol shift program in order to provide more resources, something that would enhance visibility. That would mean adding another officer and sergeant. In addition, the study suggested adding a community services officer and another school resource officer.

While presenting the results of the feasibility study last year, Greg Mathews, a senior manager with Matrix, said the city could only hire one additional person, he suggested adding another school resource officer.

During the Feb. 22 meeting, City Councilor Sean Garland, who formerly served on the Sherwood Police Advisory Board, said he too didn't see support from the advisory board or citizens at large. Instead he said he like to see a school resources officer added to the department, along with a full-time compliance officer and evidence technician.

Garland said the plan to have Washington County provide night time patrols "was nice to look at but it's not going to work."

Asked what he thought of the study, Chief Groth said having an outside consulting firm look at how the department does business is always helpful.

Councilor Sally Robinson said her priority would be to add more school resource officers in the future, noting their importance in school settings.

"I want to see three total before I get off council," she said.

While Officer Kris Asla previously served as school resource officer, he moved into a detective position at the beginning of February after four years at Sherwood High School.

However, Groth said his department is looking at creative ways to fill that position, whose costs were divided by both the city and the Sherwood School District.

Currently the city is down two officers, and Groth said it is an extremely challenging job market for police agencies in general when it comes to recruiting officers. Groth noted that one potential applicant the city is considering is being wooed by another agency at the same time but he hopes to get him on the Sherwood department.

Meanwhile, Chris West, chairman of the Sherwood Police Advisory Board, said he was pleased with the council's decision not to pursue a the night patrol contract, pointing out it was a carryover inititive from former police chief -- and later mayor – Bill Middleton.

"During discussions by the Sherwood Police Advisory Board, work sessions with the council and in conversations with my neighbors, this proposal never made sense," said West. "It alienated our professional police staff and had huge budget implications. Now staff can focus on filling critical vacancies."