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Day: March 23, 2015

Everything you wanted to know about the Big Toy

The site in the orchards at Keizer Rapids Park where the Big Toy playground structure will be going was recently cleared with nearly 200 trees total being taken out. (Submitted)
The site in the orchards at Keizer Rapids Park where the Big Toy playground structure will be going was recently cleared with nearly 200 trees total being taken out. (Submitted)

By CRAIG MURPHY
Of the Keizertimes

In case you haven’t heard, a big playground is coming to Keizer soon.

If things go according to plan, the Big Toy will be built in June.

The project has had some issues, such as a nine-month delay and a controversy over the location that lasted most of 2014.

The Keizertimes has covered every step of the project. To check on our past coverage, visit www.keizertimes.com and search for Big Toy. We have put together a set of answers to questions we’ve frequently heard in regards to the Big Toy.

Where is the Big Toy being built?

The playground is being built at Keizer Rapids Park. More specifically, the Big Toy is being built in the orchards area off of Chemawa Road, not far from the dog park.

That was not the original location. The original site was between the boat ramp and the amphitheater. For months that was the assumed location, but in January 2014 then-mayor Lore Christopher opined a move was necessary. By the end of the year, following an in-depth Urban Growth Boundary process, the orchards became part of city property and the site was selected. Nearly 200 trees were recently cleared.

When is it being built?

The project is scheduled to be built in a five-day period, from June 10 to 14.

How much will this cost?

The project budget is about $319,000. Until recently, the budget was $105,000 more as a poured-in rubber surface was going to be used. Earlier this year, the decision was made to go with engineered wood fibers, hence the cut in the budget. However, Keizer officials will be applying for grants to pay for the more expensive surface. If that funding happens, the wood fibers will be moved to other parks in Keizer.

How much of that money has been raised?

For a number of months, the figure hovered around the 50 percent mark. With the budget cut, the number jumped to 70 percent. Even without that, fundraising efforts have been picking up in recent weeks. The largest contributor in the money raised so far is still the city, as $100,000 in System Development Charges (SDC) helped to kick-start things.

What if the money isn’t raised?

The project will still go on. Bill Lawyer, Public Works director for Keizer, has emphasized the city is committed to making sure the Big Toy gets built. If needed, the city will put in more SDC funds to cover any shortcoming.

Janet Carlson, the Marion County commissioner who is co-chairing the Big Toy’s fundraising committee, has said fundraising won’t end in June. She feels once people see the project done, they will be more willing to contribute financially.

How did the design come about, and is it finalized?

A designer from New York-based consultant Leathers and Associates came to Keizer in November 2013 for Design Day. She suggested using the site between the amphitheater and the boat ramp, then led efforts to get design feedback from 3,000 elementary aged students in Keizer. Design ideas from youth were collected and turned into the design shown to community members in a packed meeting at the Keizer Civic Center.

For the most part, the design has been finalized. One recent change has been the addition of a volcano slide in light of Salem-Keizer Volcanoes owner Jerry Walker pledging funds to pay for the feature.

A look at the latest rendering of the Big Toy playground structure, incorporating the recent addition of a volcano slide. (Submitted)
A look at the latest rendering of the Big Toy playground structure, incorporating the recent addition of a volcano slide. (Submitted)

Wasn’t this project delayed?

Technically speaking, it was delayed twice. While a playground was part of the master planning process for KRP in 2008, a specific project didn’t get going until Will Stitt brought up the idea at a Parks Board meeting in late 2012. The initial idea was to do the playground the following year, but it got pushed back to 2014 to allow for more time, especially in terms of fundraising and design.

Funding issues and the ongoing debate over location, however, pushed the build date from September 2014 to this June.

What makes this a community build project?

Community members will be doing the actual building over the five-day span in June. Think of an old-fashioned barn raising, swapping out the barn for a large playground. In addition, volunteers have been putting in many hours at meetings to work on details for the project.

It’s important to note that while volunteers will be doing the labor, trained people will be overseeing the construction. More details about how the build days will work should be known after an organizational day on April 7.

What if I want to get involved in any way?

No help is being turned away. Plenty of time slots for the build days are still available; those interested can check out the project’s website at www.keizerbigtoy.org and fill out a form to volunteer. The website has plenty of information about the project, including how to provide financial support.

How long has this been planned?

Since November 2012. A Community Build Task Force was formed shortly after and has been meeting monthly.

Will this for sure be done?

Project leaders have expressed complete confidence it will be done and bristle at the notion it might be delayed again or might not happen at all. As mentioned above, city leaders have pledged to make sure it will be done.

A look inside the Keizer Police Department’s strategic shift

Lt. Andrew Copeland with the Keizer Police Department hands out badge stickers to children at Shelly's Kids Day Care on March 13. Copeland and others at KPD have been making concerted efforts to reach out more to members of the Keizer community. (KEIZERTIMES/Craig Murphy)
Lt. Andrew Copeland with the Keizer Police Department hands out badge stickers to children at Shelly’s Kids Day Care on March 13. Copeland and others at KPD have been making concerted efforts to reach out more to members of the Keizer community. (KEIZERTIMES/Craig Murphy)

By CRAIG MURPHY
Of the Keizertimes

The Keizer Police Department is all about the POP.

Since John Teague returned to the KPD and took over as police chief in the fall of 2013, a shift has been accelerating. With the shift, problem-oriented policing (POP) is now a way of life at the department.

In simple terms, KPD personnel now use whatever resources deemed necessary to be proactive in regards to crime, instead of merely reacting.

The KPD still has officers on regular patrols. Those officers still respond to calls. Detectives still investigate crimes.

But now resources have been changed around. The department has a full-time crime analyst, Cara Steele, who can look over data and spot trends or clumps of crimes happening in a small time frame or similar locations.

Teague shifted motorcycle patrol officer resources and brought back the mostly dormant Community Response Unit, a four-member team heavily involved with building relationships to take on long-standing problems such as drug houses and organized retail crime.

Officers not only have more time to concentrate on doing patrols, they can directly share what they find on patrol with other units such as CRU while helping to figure out problems that don’t always require using handcuffs.

“Part of the shift is moving away from traditional policing to problem-oriented policing,” Teague said. “COP (community-oriented policing) is a tactic of POP; POP is the philosophy. The purpose is to identify the root problems and solve them. Sometimes you involve the community; that is one of the tactics. COP didn’t really gain traction until recently.”

While at the Dallas Police Department, Teague was working on a thesis on Disproportionate Minority Contacts in the Department of Corrections at Western Oregon University when he talked with Craig Prins, executive director of the Oregon Criminal Justice Commission, about reducing the cost of crimes and incarcerations. That led to Teague extending his thesis for a year and changing his focus to evidence-based policing.

Teague said research led law enforcement leaders around the country down the wrong path for years dating back to the early 1970s, including the notion that officers should not use any discretion but instead follow the law to the letter. On a national scale, Teague said that philosophy has been quickly changing.

“I just happened to be paying attention to the shift in the industry,” he said. “I was in the right place at the right time and paid attention to the right things.”

POP was coined in 1979 by Herman Goldstein, a professor at the University of Wisconsin. In 1987, John Eck and William Spelman expanded the model into SARA (Scanning, Analysis, Response and Assessment).

“If using SARA didn’t curtail crime, you’d go back to the scan and do it over,” recalled Jeff Kuhns, the KPD deputy chief. “That was the word we used within our agency. Now we’re onto POP.”

In other words, not only is POP far from a new idea, it’s actually far from new to the KPD.

Kuhns, who has been at the department more than 25 years, said former chief Marc Adams had started the implementation before retiring in early 2013.

“They keep attributing the new COP to chief Teague,” Kuhns said. “That’s a fallacy. This agency has been aware of POP for years. The key thing this gentleman (Teague) has done is he has renewed our agency’s focus on COP. He’s done that by doing two key things. One is mitigating or reducing the amount of time for officers to be inputting data so they can be free to problem solve. That helps find root problems. And he’s re-upped the CRU team, which had been mothballed. They can go the extra mile on bigger problems to solve them.”

Teague noted he was at a recent Keizer Rotary meeting with Adams when he was again credited for introducing a new concept to Keizer.

“He laid the foundation for all of this, whether it took off or not,” Teague said of Adams. “Generally it has not taken off anywhere until very recently. Everyone was operating in fits and starts with POP in the 1990s.”

Teague, who started at KPD the same day in 1989 as Kuhns but was gone more than four years to serve as police chief in Dallas before returning in 2013, said community policing has a long history in Keizer.

“It’s important to note with community policing that Chuck Stull introduced it here,” Teague said of Keizer’s police chief who was terminated in 1997. “Adams was hired to build upon that. Now we’ve really turbocharged it, if you will. Just because I put it in a different gear shouldn’t cast a bad reflection on Stull or Adams. The whole industry has had to catch up or figure it out. They were a reflection of their times. What they were doing was right, proper and fitting for their times. Now, times have caught up to the whole industry.”

A big part of the change includes less reliance on numbers. Whereas the traditional police model calls for enough tickets to sustain the department, fewer Keizer residents are being called into court since Teague took over in September 2013.

“It’s easy to judge your police department by the number of arrests you make,” Teague said. “It’s more difficult to subscribe to a philosophy that is less quantitative. It takes some willingness to leave the comfort of numbers. But it’s the right thing to do, man. At the end of the day, a police department should be concerned about order and disorder, the safety in the community. We know we can’t arrest our way out of a problem. We must find the root problems of crimes. It’s better for everyone. We have to unplug from counting numbers. Not a lot of places do that; it’s great that Keizer does.”

For years, the mantra with the KPD was more officers were needed to deal with crime. The department will soon have a 38th sworn officer – down from a peak of 41 officers – but efficiency with the lower resources has become paramount.

“Industrywide we’ve become so reliant on numbers to justify our existence and expansion,” Kuhns said. “It’s difficult to measure outcomes (with POP) or what crimes you’ve prevented by using it. If we get an officer at a house three nights trying to solve a problem and we solve it, we’ll never be able to measure the future responses we prevented.”

Teague feels city leaders have bought into the system, which could help explain the credit he gets for the change.

“We’re not focusing on outputs, we’re focused on outcomes,” he said. “We’re not focusing on numbers. The outcomes we focus on are police legitimacy and community safety. If budget numbers require (a certain amount of) work product to determine how many cops we ought to have, this system will not work. This system requires trust. That trust can be measured but it’s qualitative, not quantitative. It comes from the community, how safe people feel they are. We have to be involved in talking with the community.”

Kuhns said one change comes in morning briefings.

“In the old school way, a sergeant would look at an officer and ask how many arrests were made and how many tickets were issued last shift,” Kuhns said. “The new way of thinking is, ‘What problems are you finding? What are the root causes? How can we involve Cara to look at the data?’ It’s a different way to do things.”

There’s another change with the morning briefings: various units meet and Steele shares any trends worth noting. Sgt. Bob Trump and his CRU members attend the meetings on Tuesdays. Officers coming off night shift and officers coming onto their day shift attend, along with Lt. Andrew Copeland and detectives. In all, having 20 people in the room isn’t too uncommon.

“You can’t replace that, having everyone in the room at the same time,” Trump said. “There are a lot of valuable experiences shared in that room. We all know about something happening and are passing along information. If we hear about something, we pass it along.”

Copeland likes the revised briefings as well.

“The 7 a.m. briefings are a good time for people to bring up any concerns,” he said. “Officers can say here is the issue and they will pass the information along so (Steele) can do a workup on a particular house. I can take that on or pass it to CRU. They are identifying areas of more concern, rather than having patrol respond to the same call over and over.”

Officer Carrie Anderson finds the new way for morning briefings much better.

“Briefings have become an information sharing time,” Anderson said. “Information sharing is a lot more precise now, since it’s face to face. It’s a much more efficient way of getting information out there. It’s good coming together as a group. There is some great information sharing. It was way more isolated in the past.”

During a recent Tuesday meeting, Anderson shared information about an apartment she responded to the day before with a number of stolen items and drugs. CRU member Darsy Olafson wrote a search warrant and the property was seized that day.

“It was clear I’d need extra help,” Anderson said. “I told the sergeant I needed more hands and we discussed a plan.”

Often Copeland will decide on the approach.

“Copeland is responsible for identifying the problem, assessing the seriousness and looking at the resources available,” Kuhns said. “Multiple guys have a piece of it. Cara is looking at the numbers and data. It’s a very holistic approach, as opposed to the old school way of let’s just remove the problem with handcuffs and hope that fixes things.”

Copeland gave a recent example of a female with mental issues.

“I got several agencies involved with her and we found her housing,” Copeland said. “Before, she would have gone under the radar. She would have slipped through the cracks. If not for us having the POP mindset, she would be a transient on the street being victimized over and over. We’d be spending time doing a lot of reports on her. Now she’s in a good place. It changed her life and her family’s life. Doing that reduces costs elsewhere. She now writes me thank you letters.”

Copeland feels the KPD has bought into POP for a simple reason.

“POP has been an easier sell because cops want to solve problems,” he said.

Teague said one of the changes calls for officers to spend less time on reports and more time doing patrols or talking with community members.

“We’re still getting information, but in a short synopsis,” Teague said. “It’s worth it to free cops up for 1.5 to two hours a day to stay on calls for service and to identify problems.”

That change has suited Anderson, a 20-year KPD veteran, just fine.

“Things are refreshingly different,” said the KPD’s lone female officer. “Before Teague, everything was a report, including something minor that took a couple of minutes to respond to. There was a lot of data entry. It was very time consuming. I spent hours at my desk writing reports. Then you’d start the next day over again. I never could get caught up. I had to hurry through calls to get back to reports, especially if I was making arrests. I felt like I was working a desk job. I felt like I could never get caught up.”

Anderson said she now averages about four or five reports per shift, instead of 15. Reports are made for each call, but can now be short narratives with a few notes if needed. She gave an example of the difference.

“Before, there would be an anonymous call of a barking dog,” Anderson said. “I would check it out and would sit and wait, then write a report that there was no dog. I would include the time, address, if I talked to anyone, when I responded and what I did the whole time. It would take twice as long to write about it versus actually doing it.

“Now I put in the box I was here, there was no dog and I send it,” she added. “I don’t have to go into the whole system and fill all the little boxes. That means a lot more time on the road now.”

Having more time also means Anderson can use that time problem solving.

“The longer you’re an officer, the more you realize sometimes an arrest isn’t the answer or it won’t fix the problem,” she said. “Sometimes it causes a problem. Sometimes one person just wants the other person to go to jail. The answer doesn’t always have to be an arrest. At times (before) an arrest was just an easy answer. When I have the opportunity, I try to involve myself more and talk to both parties. I try to take a different approach to make sure there is justice for everyone. An arrest might feel better in the short-term, but it’s not the long-term answer. That person will get out and do the same thing again. You need to get to the root of the problem.”

Teague said in the 1960s there was a movement to get away from officers using their own discretion.

“We saw the consequences,” he said. “Now we very much want officers to use their discretion. That’s the biggest shift I’ve seen in my 25 years, is the move to more discretion. Everyone wants cops to have discretion. You don’t want to be cited for going 26 mph in a 25 zone.”

The way Anderson sees it, POP lines up with her internal philosophy.

“I’ve always said this job is all about problem-solving,” she said. “I always had this approach. This is what I’ve been doing. It’s a thinking game. It’s a brain game. For me it’s a refreshing change. It’s what I’ve been saying for years.”

Not only does POP de-emphasize numbers in terms of arrests and the like, Teague said implementing it has nothing to do with other numbers, i.e. how many officers are on the roster.

“None of it is driven by a need to be more efficient,” Teague said. “All of it is driven by the need to make the community safer. The nice thing about that is that the change in policing strategy is more efficient and requires fewer resources.

“Having 41 (officers) is a magic number because we were once there,” he added. “If we were there, I would add one more (officer) to both night shifts. But if we had 10 more people, would we have made the change? Absolutely we would have made the change. It isn’t just about arresting people, it’s about preventing crime in the first place and reducing the cost of crime to victims, perps and families, all of that. It’s the right thing to do.”

That has included bringing back CRU, which was disbanded in June 2010 when Trump was running it.

“We have a different mission now,” Trump said. “We’re more broad. In the past we focused on mostly drug investigations. That tended to be what CRU did. How CRU is put together, we are capable of doing surveillance for drugs. Now we also look at livability, like the squatters on Verda Lane last year leading to neighbors complaining. We are able to get in that environment. We obtained a search warrant and remedied that problem months sooner than we would have otherwise. We can identify through  (Steele) problem locations and see how to permanently solve problems.”

Trump noted he has resources within the KPD as well as outside those walls, such as nuisance abatement, Department of Human Services and Keizer Public Works.

“We try to be as creative as we can for our stakeholders,” Trump said. “It’s more of a team concept. We can bring in anyone who can help towards a permanent solution.”

Trump said CRU’s goal is to be familiar with the community.

“We do it in a number of ways,” he said. “We have bicycle patrols. We talk to a lot of people. We aim to ride through school zones and neighborhoods. We hear about stuff you wouldn’t normally hear. If you just have a conversation, people tell you about things that are bothering them but they wouldn’t really want to call dispatch about.”

Trump gave an example of an issue Bair Park neighbors were having.

“Kids were going through tall grass and smoking,” Trump said. “We coordinated with public works to mow it. Then we got back ahold of the neighbors and let them know it was solved. It was solving a livability issue.”

Despite all the changes, not everything has changed. For example, officers still have training, as highlighted last week in the Keizertimes.

“There will still be bad people,” Teague said. “You still have to have police officers in uniform driving police cars. If you had a cop for every doorstep, you would still need cops. You always have to have cops that do traditional police work since there are bad people out there. But where we can interfere with that, we’re going to do that. That is not traditional policing. That is POP.”

Patrol officers still drive around Keizer, even with the changed philosophy.

“Random patrol is still valuable,” Teague said. “If you live on a street where crime never happens and you pay taxes, you still expect to occasionally see a cop.”

Those cops are being hired now with different skill sets being sought.

“We look for people now who are more open minded, have cultural empathy, emotional stability, social initiative and are flexible,” Teague said. “People tend to think in terms that cops are inflexible, just the facts. If you just have the law and see if the law was broken or not and make an arrest, that doesn’t take a whole lot of skill. When you are trying to unravel another person’s world, that requires an incisiveness that goes beyond just skill. There’s not a lot of people who can do that job who want to do the job.”

While changes are being made now, Teague figures it will only get better in the future when people like Copeland, 16 years his junior, will be primed to take over.

“I told Craig Prins it would be a decade before POP makes traction in Oregon,” Teague said. “Well, we’re way ahead of that. Some things have really fallen into place for it to happen. It really takes a significant philosophical shift from outputs towards outcomes. Copeland’s generation, going through the leadership training now, is getting it in spades. It will take his generation to do it industrywide.”

The industry as a whole has been having a rough time nationally, highlighted by the ongoing saga between police and citizens in Ferguson, Mo. Trump said what’s happening in Ferguson isn’t indicative of what’s happening in Keizer or other places.

“When people see Keizer practice law enforcement, they see a difference,” Trump said. “People come up to us and thank us for what we do. It’s been real positive.”

Teague said things aren’t necessarily being looked at in context.

“In Ferguson, a vast majority of the people aren’t rabble rousing protestors that shoot cops,” he said. “You will always have some of those people. We could have some terrible accident that happens here that looks like, on the surface, we made bad decisions. We could have that happen today. But I think most people would give us the benefit of the doubt. That’s just something you deal with.

“We know there are some communities that feel disenfranchised, that don’t feel they have access to justice,” Teague added. “It’s incumbent upon us to maintain dialogues with all the people in Keizer. We owe them that. If our notion is really to increase community safety, we have to have that dialogue to do that, to identify and solve problems. It is part of our charge.”