Defunding, consolidation or other, Falmouth City Council candidates talk law enforcement


    In the Falmouth Outlook series for candidates for Falmouth City Council, the question was posed to candidates, “    Candidates were limited to a 250-word response.
    “Throughout the nation, we are hearing about defunding the police and locally there has been talk about consolidating the Falmouth Police Department and Pendleton County Sheriff Office.  What are your thoughts on this issue as the city continually battles a drug problem?”
    The weekly series will continue through October 27, the week before Election Day on November 3.

Sebastian Ernst: First I’d like to be clear that I am in no way part of the radical national movement that seeks to defund our law enforcement agencies and vilify our brave men and women in uniform. As a Marine Corp veteran, I know what it means to serve our nation. I understand the sacrifices that our law enforcement and first responders make on a daily basis, to which I am eternally grateful.
    A few months ago I laid out a plan for Falmouth that would see our Police Department merge resources with the county in order to create a single law enforcement agency for Pendleton. This plan has been met with overwhelming support of the citizens of Falmouth and those in the county. I’ve spoken to multiple county magistrates who believe this would be beneficial to both city and county residents. This single act alone would free up over $600,000 per year that the City of Falmouth can reinvest in our community. It is with these yearly funds that we can rebuild our town better than it ever was before.
    I would push to reallocate every penny towards streets, sidewalks, parks, town beautification, historic preservation and community events. One municipal project I would like to see built is a community splash park right here in town. All of this is possible with the right decisions and the right leadership. I believe with your support, we can make this plan become a reality. If elected, I will fight vigorously to ensure this happens.

Joyce Carson: At this time, I am not in favor of consolidating the two law enforcement departments.  People live in towns and cities to get more immediate response from their police and fire departments.  With a more concentrated population, more police are necessary to work on drug problems abatement, business checks, and for the ability to respond rapidly. This administration has worked diligently to get our police department accredited and equipped with the tools they need to better serve the citizens of Falmouth. I also feel there is better communication and collaboration between the city and county entities than there has been in years. While it is necessary to evaluate costs and benefits of each department, this is not a smart solution for our residents right now.

Shannon Johnson: No matter how I respond, there is no easy answer.  There are bad and good police officers everywhere.  
    “Defunding the Police” is a recent movement to bring awareness to the bad officers and their response to certain situations, particularly involving people of color.
    In my opinion, it forces us all to look at what is going on around us and start talking about some not so pleasant subjects.  Police officers should be held responsible for their actions just as much as anyone else would be at their jobs.  Training opportunities has become a leading force with the movement and I feel, we should consider this as an option for our officers as well.  Defunding does not mean eliminating the police departments.  
    With that in mind, I have not received any information on consolidating the city police department with the sheriff’s department.  The city would still be financially responsible for those services.  I would have to see more about this in order to answer further. As far as drugs go, this battle does not start or stop at the city limits.  It is an epidemic effecting the entire nation.  Our local police is just one small entity fighting this problem.
    Thank you for the opportunity!

Craig Owen: I’m definitely not a proponent of defunding the police.  However, at our local city level I would only be in favor of consolidating the Falmouth Police Department and Pendleton County Sheriff’s Office if I was convinced that such a decision would not compromise the safety of the community.  
    Based on conversations I’ve had with fellow candidate Sebastian Ernst, I not only feel it’s possible to go this route and still maintain the necessary level of safety that the community needs, I also see how it can put the city in a much better financial situation to make sorely needed improvements.

Luke Price: I would like to start off by saying the Falmouth Police Dept plays a big role in the day to day operations to uphold the law and order in many varieties within our city among multiple other key departments.
    I believe it is not in the citizens best interest to combine the City of Falmouth Police Dept. and the Pendleton County Sheriff Dept.
    With the city of Falmouth being the largest concentrated population in the county it is wise to keep a city police dept. operating within the city for prompt response time, consistent police present, great relationships between police and citizens.
    I believe that every police force has a large part in drug related issues that are in every city across our great nation. I think that most of the drug issues each city deals with daily is a society issue. We as citizen have aloud this drug epidemic to get out of control and its going to take every police officer and citizen to stand up for what is right to take back or small and large committees.
    I am striving to make our city a better place to raise our families.

Amy Beckett Hurst: The question posed refers to not one, but many, issues that face cities and communities throughout America. Police in our community are funded through taxing, fees, grants, and special funding. Funding is tightly budgeted and oversight occurs through internal reviews and required external audits. Because of these aspects, defunding is not a choice for our local agencies.
    The discussion of merging seems to have pros and cons. My thoughts on consolidating police forces, are that the citizens of Falmouth would not benefit.
    This would be a loss of services for our town. Several citizens I spoke with had mixed feelings about the idea but would not want a merger.  Consolidation sounds like an intriguing idea at first until you start looking at what we would lose as a city. The city would lose any control over the police force and patrolling.  Less policing means there would be increased crime, safety and protection issues.
    Other cities who have undergone a merging have reported increased response times, officer availability problems and loss of services to residents.  The costs of repurposing and remodeling facilities, uniforms, vehicles, and training would cost both the city and county which in turn would be paid by the tax payers.  A merger would not help in the fight against drugs. Reducing the number of officers, availability of active duty police, and patrols would only seem to promote and increase drug and crime activity in our area.