When Tigard Police Respond to Multiple Emergencies
When Tigard Police Respond to Multiple Emergencies
Police patrol shifts can be unpredictable. The volume, pace, and intensity of calls to 9-1-1 and the non-emergency number may vary on any given shift. “We have to prioritize the calls coming in. We will respond to life-safety issues first then property crimes in progress. On busy nights, we do our best, but sometimes we can’t get to that suspicious or lower-level call right away,” says Officer Michelle Brown. Where officers are dispatched to a high-priority, high-risk incident, safety is paramount and there are strength in numbers.
“A high risk call such as a domestic violence incident always requires two people at a minimum. You’re not going to send an officer out there by themselves. It’s not safe, especially when emotions are running high between two people,” says Tigard Police Chief Kathy McAlpine. “If we have three officers on a shift, that leaves one officer isolated to respond to other calls in the city and limits what they can do.” On many shifts, staffing may be at minimum levels of 3-4 officers, which can create coverage issues during a busy time.
One typical example was a weekday night in December where graveyard shift officers got to a running start at 10pm with a stream of high-priority calls. Minutes into the shift, the Tigard Police K9 team assisted Sherwood Police (SP) on a burglary in progress. From there, the four officers and supervisor assigned to the shift responded the following high-priority calls:
- An assault at a video lottery business in Tigard. A 20-year old male, acting erratically, randomly punched a woman and fled the location. Multiple officers searched the area and took him into custody after locating him nearby. The primary officer was unavailable for additional calls for approximately two hours between the apprehension, witness interviews, and transport to Washington County Jail in Hillsboro.
- A high-risk contact with a truck driver. The man reportedly displayed a handgun to a security guard who was confronting him about trespassing at a business complex.
- A car prowl in progress. On the heels of investigating the theft of a Toyota Prius, police were dispatched to an apartment complex in Tigard after residents reported suspicious activity. Tigard Police arrested the suspect and lodged him in the Washington County Jail.
- Three domestic violence incidents. Officers were called to a location for a noise complaint, then later a domestic violence incident and ultimately arrested a 30-year old man. The timing of this incident coincided with another high-risk domestic incident involving a male suspect who allegedly beat up his girlfriend and barricaded her and their infant inside an apartment with him. Officers were able to gain entry and safely remove them. After Tigard K-9 Diesel searched for the suspect, officers apprehended him and took him into custody.
On the barricade call, neighboring law enforcement agencies assisted Tigard officers. Mutual aid agreements with regional law enforcement partners allow Tigard Police to receive assistance on a high-level incident for a limited duration. Chief McAlpine cautions that, although crucial, mutual aid needs to be the exception and not the norm. “You don’t want to rely on mutual aid for basic coverage. You want that for only the high priority, barricaded subjects, or robberies where you need help with containment because the K9 team is searching for the suspect. You don’t want to use them for back up on a typical domestic call because they have to patrol and respond to calls in their own area. If all we’re doing is covering each others’ emergency calls, we’re not getting to the lower tier calls or having time for proactive, visible patrolling.”
Says Chief McAlpine, “Because many community members feel safe in their neighborhood, they may be unaware of the increased level of activity we respond to each year, while maintaining minimum staffing of 3-4 officers on many shifts. On dayshift and a couple hours of swing shift, there are motor officers, detectives, and even Command Staff who can assist patrol officers when necessary. However, swing and graveyard shift must rely on each other on most calls.”
“I am raising awareness to a growing concern. The impact of consistently operating with minimum staffing negatively impacts service levels and increases officer stress levels, burnout, fatigue, and morale, which ultimately impacts employee retention.”
School Resource Officers Work with Students and Staff for Safer Schools
School Resource Officers Work with Students and Staff for Safer Schools
“It takes a special person to be a School Resource Officer. They have to like kids, have a playful personality, and be a model citizen for students and staff,” says Angelita Miller, Tigard High School Associate Principal.
The Tigard Police Department has two SROs dedicated to the schools for a four-year rotation. SRO Brian Imus is stationed at Tigard High while SRO Jon Moehring is assigned to Twality and Fowler middle schools. Both officers are available to assist other Tigard schools.
“I wouldn’t be able to do my job as an administrator without the support of the SRO,” says Angelita Miller. Their ability to focus solely on schools allows SROs to build rapport with students, more successfully intervene when students get off track, respond to school emergencies, and provide input on safety policies and practices at the school.
Tigard High receives many anonymous tips through the Safe Oregon tip line that allows community members and students to report safety concerns. Tips may include threats on social media directed toward the school or students, or concerns about individuals expressing suicidal ideation. Angelita Miller regularly involves SRO Imus in following up on these tips.
SRO Imus participates in Tigard High and Tigard-Tualatin School District safety meetings. Recently, the discussion has centered around vestibules and best practices for access control to the buildings including the protocol for checking in visitors into the school. His office overlooks the main entrance, which has further informed his recommendations. “It is nice that school administrators have been receptive to an outsider’s perspective, allowing us to share our training and experiences,” says SRO Imus. This input includes recommendations for lock down/out procedures for active threats.
Building rapport with students is an important role for the School Resource Officer. “Officer Imus is out in the hallways during breaks and lunchtime talking to students. He has a following of students who aspire to be police officers because of him,” says Angelita Miller, Associate Principal. When he attends football games and other major events to ensure the peace, he is regularly put on the spot such as a recent dance where a DJ called him to show case his moves on the dance floor; he is willing to be silly to connect.
Students who trust him are more likely to share problems they are experiencing at school or home and concerns they have about peers. During SRO Imus’s time at Tigard High, a student shared information about drug dealing to minors at a nearby home that led to a significant drug arrest.
Knowing students and what works for their age group helps inform interventions. For example, he has dealt with escalating tensions between students who were “beefing” online and bringing their drama to school. Officer Imus and Associate Principal Miller may sit down with the parties to mediate conflict. In other cases, they may draw up an agreement for them not to contact each other at school or on social media to mitigate the problem. The goal is to intervene early with students and involve parents when necessary.
Officer Imus is nearing the end of his four-year rotation and will transition back to patrol soon. Recently, a former student visited him whose difficult home life lead to issues both in home and at the high school. She told Officer Imus that she was initially scared of him because of his police uniform, tools, and job. However, in dealing with him over time, she came to appreciate their interactions, realizing that Officer Imus cared about her and was trying to help.
Officer Imus was heartened knowing that she was doing well and headed on the right trajectory toward a productive, fulfilling, and healthy life. Says Officer Imus, “I really do care about these students, and I want to see them when they graduate and go on from here to do awesome things in their lives."
When Officers Respond to a Medical Call
“Winco employees were crucial in helping save this man’s life. It was a textbook response, and they did everything right,” says Tigard Police Officer Nate Will. The man had suffered from a cardiac arrest and fell to the ground in the produce aisle of Winco on an afternoon in October. The employees administered CPR chest compressions for about 3-5 minutes by the time Officer Will was dispatched and arrived on the scene along with Officer Nunley.
Officer Will, who is a CPR and First Aid instructor for the department, relieved the employees and resumed compressions for around three minutes until Tualatin Valley Fire and Rescue (TVF&R) and Metro West personnel arrived, set up their equipment, and took over. Ultimately, the quick response of the employees and the efforts of the emergency responders resulted in a life saved.
Tigard Police Officers frequently respond to medical calls such as the one at Winco. From January to October 2019, officers responded to an average of 13 dispatched calls per month involving CPR and an average of 10 calls assisting firefighters on other types of fire/medical calls. As such, all police patrol vehicles are stocked with a first-aid kit, AED, trauma kit, and Naloxone, which is used to reverse an opioid overdose. Officers are all certified in first aid, CPR, and administering AEDs and receive training every one to two years.
When medical calls are dispatched, Tigard Patrol Officers often arrive before other emergency personnel. “Officers may be responding to another call or patrolling near the incident. Our proximity allows us to get there, start administering CPR, and applying an AED until emergency medical arrives,” says Commander Jamey McDonald.
Once TVF&R and Metro West arrive, they direct first-aid efforts. Officers will continue to assist where needed and secure the scene. During the Winco incident, Officers Nunley and Rivera maintained a perimeter around the equipment, patient, and emergency personnel to allow sufficient room to tend to the patient without disruption. They also comforted the patient’s significant other. From there, officers typically stay on the scene until the patient is transported to the hospital.
On a number of these calls, the patient cannot be resuscitated. Officer Will and other emergency responders will continue to administer first aid in order to be sure. Despite a grave prognosis, he manages to stay on course by focusing on the timing of the compressions. When it is time to relent, Officers will conduct an investigation at the scene to confirm that the individual died from natural causes.
Fortunately in this case, Winco employees were in a position to react quickly to help emergency responders save a life. When people need help, minutes matter. Says Commander McDonald, “The faster we can get there when someone calls 9-1-1 regardless of what it is—whether it is a crime or a medical issue—allows us to provide the best level of service we can for the community and achieve better outcomes.”
Arrest Warrants Keep Tigard Police Busy
Arrest warrants keep Tigard Police officers busy. Of the 360 arrests made between January 1st and April 10th, 29% of them included at least one arrest warrant charge. Because of their prevalence, patrol officers familiarize themselves with defendants wanted for arrest warrants in Tigard. Although officers are motivated to find them, arrests can take 1-2 hours between documentation and jail transport.
When defendants fail to show up for a scheduled court date, an arrest warrant is issued. Officer Enzenberger finds that many defendants who fail to appear in court grapple with drug and alcohol addiction. If they are truant because they have entered a treatment facility, he is willing to work with them, knowing that sobriety can curb criminal behavior in the long run.
Another common catalyst for an arrest warrant is a parole or probation violation due to missed appointments with the probation/parole officer, a failure to pay a fine, or a “dirty” urinalysis that indicates drug use.
For felony crimes, a grand jury may decide to indict a defendant, which will also result in an arrest warrant. In this case, a defendant may not be aware of the indictment or the warrant.
Enzenberger likens an outstanding arrest warrant to a “logjam preventing a case from moving forward.” Delays can take an emotional toll on victims and witnesses and disrupt the work of the district attorney’s office. “I like to be that person who gets the ball moving and see people own up to what they’ve done, especially when they’ve committed serious crimes.”
Because of his interest, Officer Enzenberger recently started working one day each week with the Criminal Apprehension Team (CAT) out of the Washington County Sheriff’s office. The team locates people with outstanding arrest warrants. Their ability to focus on this task allows them to conduct surveillance, research, and follow up on sex offenders who are not complying with registration requirements. This may not be possible if they had to divide their time between this effort and fielding 9-1-1 and nonemergency calls.
Success in this work depends on relationships built over time. “Law enforcement is a people business—it’s about relationships,” says Officer Enzenberger. There are certain people who run in groups and cycle through the system with a succession of arrests and arrest warrants. Knowing these connections and locations where people congregate helps him connect the dots between people and places. By being trustworthy and forthright, Officer Enzenberger is more likely to encourage them to be cooperative during an arrest and provide information about their associates.
Recently, Officer Enzenberger arrested a man who failed to pay the fines as required by the terms of his probation. This was the second occasion where the officer phoned the defendant about an arrest warrant. The first time involved an indictment for the operation of a drug lab out of his garage. The interaction was an easy one, likely due to the nature of previous interactions.
When officers do not know whom they are dealing with, arrests warrants make the unknown more dangerous, especially traffic stops. “You don’t know if you’re stopping a soccer mom dropping her kids off for practice or a fugitive wanted for a murder in another state who has been laying low in Oregon.” That was the case when he approached a suspicious vehicle parked in a driveway that had been reported by a resident. The plate number did not match the person, so officers had no idea who was in the car. When the woman saw the officer, she threw the car into drive, tearing across the yard. Officers pursued her for several miles before they were able to get her to stop the vehicle. Ultimately, she had a felony warrant and possessed methamphetamine. Fortunately, officers were not harmed in the pursuit.
Each month, officers apprehend a significant number of people for arrest warrants. By doing so, it allows a criminal case to progress and an opportunity for victims to seek justice and move forward with their lives.
Immediate Response and Mutual Aid Lead to an Arrest
Immediate Response and Mutual Aid Lead to an Arrest
Published in Tigard Life in June 2019
Officer Keller was in the right place at the right time. On April 24, 2019 at 2:40 in the morning, while patrolling her district along SW Scholls Ferry at SW 121st, she observed a woman in a Ford Escape pointing a shotgun out of the passenger window in the direction of a neighboring car. Officer Keller activated lights and sirens. The driver of the Ford Escape accelerated, attempting to elude her. As she prepared to radio in for back up, a call came over police dispatch that the passenger of the second vehicle had been shot in the face.
By turning on the sirens before back up arrived, Officer Keller risked becoming a target of the shooter. However, she wanted to prevent further harm. “The subjects were not behaving rationally. In the absence of any other counterbalance, the gunfire may have continued,” says Lieutenant Eskew.
Until back up could arrive, Officer Keller was able to effectively communicate under stress and multi-task responsibilities that included:
- Following the vehicle as it proceeded to turn south on SW Nimbus, which was a dead end.
- Communicating updates about the location of the offenders’ vehicle and then the suspects’ direction of travel when they exited their vehicle and fled.
- Judging where to stop her vehicle to block the suspects from driving out of the area while maintaining a position of safety and visibility over their activities.
- Communicating a perimeter where Tigard officers and other mutual aid agencies should post up to contain the suspects’ movements.
During that evening, the department was staffed at minimum levels with three patrol officers and one sergeant. In this incident, Tigard called for assistance from other agencies. Beaverton (BPD), Tualatin, and Hillsboro Police Departments, and the Washington County Sheriff’s Office (WCSO) all pitched in on the call.
“We have mutual aid agreements with other law enforcement agencies that allows us to receive assistance for a limited duration, just to get us on our feet. It’s our problem to own and direct. If they have emergencies in their own jurisdictions, that will be their priority. Fortunately everything lined up on this call,” says Lieutenant Eskew. That might not have been the case during a busier time of day.
The Beaverton Police K9 team quickly located the woman-shooter in the area of 10500 SW Nimbus who was ultimately charged with Assault II, Attempted Murder, and Unlawful Use of a Weapon. The male suspect fled west to Fanno Creek. After over two hours of trying to hide from WCSO and BPD K-9 teams while being partially submerged in the body of water near the creek, he finally surrendered near the 10400 block of SW North Dakota Street, was treated for cold exposure, and arrested for Attempt to Elude Police.
“The fact that Officer Keller was at the right place at the right time, and took the actions that she did, made all the difference in my opinion,” says Lieutenant Eskew. Fortunately, the woman shot was not critically wounded due to Officer Keller’s timely and effective engagement, which prevented further violence to the victims and risk of harm to the community.
The assistance of our partners was also a crucial component that contributed to a successful outcome. Without their aid, the number of staff on shift, including two reinforcements arriving an hour later, may not have been sufficient to apprehend the suspects.
What Happens After a Crash
On a gloomy, wet evening in December, cars were backed up for two and a half hours along Southwest Hall Boulevard near City Hall. Tigard Police and their partners were responding to a crash involving a vehicle that struck a pedestrian in the roadway. The severity of the pedestrian’s injuries required acute care at the scene, resulting in the roadway being temporarily closed.
When it comes to motor vehicle crashes, first responders work quickly to clear the roadway to restore traffic flow, but this is contingent on prioritizing patient medical needs, the safety of everyone at the scene and preserving the area for the investigation to determine the cause.
In the December incident, both lanes were initially blocked off with cones, police vehicles and Tualatin Valley Fire & Rescue’s (TVF&R) apparatus providing a barrier across the roadway, so crews could provide patient care and secure the scene. Police officers performed traffic control to reroute vehicles, preventing them from entering the area.
“When responding to a crash, the first thing we do is create a buffer zone and take steps to prevent further injury or loss of life to people involved in the crash, other travelers and first responders,” says Tigard Police Traffic Safety Officer Nelson Massey.
Officers found the injured male just off the shoulder of the roadway. Emergency medical technicians and paramedics from TVF&R and Metro West worked quickly to stabilize him, so that he could be transported to the hospital.
“At crashes like this, our goal is to provide the patient near-emergency-room-level care in the field. Depending on the injuries sustained, various tasks may include stabilizing the spine, dressing wounds, administering medications through an IV, monitoring vitals and establishing an airway in order to help the patient breathe, if needed,” says Kim Haughn, public affairs officer for TVF&R.
As medical personnel tended to the patient within the buffer zone, Officer Massey began collecting evidence with the help of other officers on the scene. As a member of the Washington County Crash Analysis Reconstruction Team (CART), he has specialized training in physics and math to analyze crashes.
“For our analysis, we leave evidence intact, take photos, mark them on the road and do measurements on the roadway, so we can recreate a scaled diagram of the crash scene and determine what happened,” says Officer Massey.
Officers examined and searched for all evidence in the roadway, including tire, yaw, and gouge marks; debris; fragments and condition of the vehicle involved; and other articles. They also interviewed anyone who may have witnessed the crash in order to reconcile their information to the physical evidence found.
Once officers documented the evidence in the roadway and the patient was safely in transit to the hospital, officers and TVF&R cleared glass and debris, moved the involved vehicle and responder rigs to the shoulders and re-opened all travel lanes.
Other factors may delay the process of re-opening travel lanes following a crash, which include:
- Vehicles being inoperable, preventing responders from pushing them to the shoulder until a tow truck arrives.
- Hazards at the scene such as vehicles with leaking fluids.
- Downed power lines where emergency personnel may need to wait until PGE to mitigate the hazard before responders can safely begin their work.
- If a vehicle needs to be preserved as evidence for a criminal investigation, an officer must supervise its handling by the tow truck driver and follow the driver to a secure evidence yard to ensure the vehicle isn’t compromised.
- If a driver’s behavior indicates impairment, an officer will conduct a standard field sobriety test. The results will help establish probable cause for arrest and further tests — either a breathalyzer, urine or blood test.
Clearing the roadway after a crash to restore traffic flow is a priority for Tigard Police and is a team effort. You can be a part of that team by following officers’ traffic-control instructions. This not only ensures your safety and the safety of the scene, it helps allow first responders to efficiently perform their duties. And while it’s easy to get distracted looking at the scene when driving by, taking your eyes off the road can cause a secondary crash.
Tigard Police and their first responder partners strive to ensure Tigard is a safe and livable community. Performing safety measures at a crash site, similar to this incident, may result in traffic delays, but saving a life and preventing future injury crashes are top priorities.
Behind the Scenes with Property and Evidence
Behind the Scenes with Property Evidence
“It is our job to memorialize and preserve officers’ work to make sure a case is prosecutable,” says Sue Garino, Property and Evidence (P&E) Specialist for the Tigard Police Department. As evidence custodians, specialists help the department avoid costly missteps that could compromise the evidence and undermine a case.
Initially, Tigard Police officers comb through a crime scene, collecting all evidence related to an incident, including photos, videos, weapons, and physical evidence such as blood and DNA samples. They individually package items and transfer them to P&E. From there, specialists play a crucial role in safekeeping, tracking, and managing the logistics of every piece of evidence under their care.
Tracking an Astounding Amount of Evidence
The amount of evidence that the two P&E Specialists manage is astounding. Between current, adjudicated, and cold cases, there are approximately 13,000 physical items and 7,500 digital files to track. That includes the audiocassettes from a 1977 death investigation, one of the oldest cases in storage.
Specialists rely on a database that helps them track each piece of evidence, its case number, custody history, and current location. Along with their supervisors, they recently inventoried all evidence stored in the property room, two storage units, the crime lab, and court, including a 1990's can of Bud Dry that pertains to an incident. The goal was to ensure every item was accounted for and accurately reflected in the database.
Establishing a Chain of Custody
P&E Specialists follow best practices and accreditation standards, which is especially important for controlling access to evidence and establishing the chain of custody. Only those officers, lab technicians, district and defense attorneys, and other parties with a direct connection to a case are permitted to handle evidence. P&E supervises viewings to ensure evidence is not compromised.
Every time evidence is touched, P&E documents the interaction including date, time and location. If ever questioned by anyone, specialists can account for the history of an item, which is necessary to instill confidence that the article presented to the court is the same one collected in the criminal case. This system has other benefits. For example, a detective recently referred to the history to document the last time he handled a computer, which was necessary for a search warrant application.
Keeping Up with the Times
In the event there is a development in a cold case or an adjudicated one is appealed, evidence must be able to withstand years in storage. Specialists must understand the best way to preserve and protect the various types of evidence. For example, they do not store fingerprints or clothing in plastic, knowing they will become moldy and unusable over time as the items degrade.
When it comes to technology, specialists must research how a VHS tape, DVD, or other file format may eventually become impaired or corrupted. This was the case with a 1999 homicide case where a fugitive was extradited to the United States. The VHS tape showing the suspect entering the location where the murder took place had degraded. Fortunately, DNA evidence and witness accounts were sufficient to secure a conviction.
Additionally, they must consider whether devices needed to exhibit evidence in court may become obsolete and therefore unavailable. That factors into a decision to transfer files to another format now.
Storing Recovered Laptops, Wedding Rings and Pictures
In addition to evidence, P&E Specialists maintain the property of suspects in custody. They also handle recovered lost and stolen property ranging from cell phones, bicycles to a garden gnome.
“One of the most heartwarming parts of our job is when we recover stolen property, contact the rightful owner, and can return their phone, laptop, wedding ring or child’s picture,” says Garino.
Between prisoner belongings, recovered items, 20,000 physical and digital items, and steady stream of new evidence, storage capacity is a constant concern. Specialists must identify items that meet a criteria, and regularly purge evidence to free up space. This can be an entailed process, requiring piecing together the puzzle and problem solving.
“When you have a large case with multiple suspects, agencies, sorting out what can be released to whom, what can be destroyed, what will be seized by another agency—money for example—can be complicated,” notes P&E Specialist Kristen Paris.
P&E Specialists consider factors such as the statute of limitations and length of sentencing when considering whether to send the evidence for official destruction. Evidence disposition is determined by the District Attorney’s Office if they have adjudicated the case. Otherwise, police officers and supervisors responsible for a case make that determination.
Property and Evidence Specialists work behind the scenes. They rarely testify in court. However, their diligent work is integral to the success of a criminal case and the Tigard Police Department.
A Night on Graveyard Shift
When most of Tigard is getting ready for bed, Police Officer Travis Doughty is gearing up for work. Officer Doughty is one of several officers who work the night shift, which runs from 10:00 p.m. to 8:00 a.m. and, as the nickname “graveyards” implies, presents a unique cast of characters and challenges.
“A significant number of people we encounter late at night are up to no good,” says Doughty.
On any given night, officers respond to residential and business alarms, impaired drivers, robberies, suspicious activities, and individuals experiencing mental health crises. The number of calls for service decrease during the latter half of the shift allowing officers to proactively patrol neighborhoods as Tigard residents sleep.
Darkness is a constant challenge for officers working graveyard shift, which necessitates each carrying at least three flashlights.
“Darkness creates a lot of unknowns and risk. The routine efforts that we perform alone during daylight hours require more vigilance and often the assistance of a back up officer when it’s dark,” says Officer Travis Doughty.
Traffic stops, which can be some of the most dangerous encounters for police officers, are further complicated at night. Working in the roadway is hazardous already; additionally, when officers stop an individual for a traffic violation, they are uncertain about who is in the car and whether they pose a threat. By flashing a light towards car windows, officers may gain a better understanding of risk levels.
Officers take special precautions when they are engaged in a nighttime pursuit of a suspect.
“Learning how to manipulate the light in your favor is important when working at night,” says Doughty. “When we don’t want to tip off a suspect, we may turn off our headlights a couple of blocks away before reaching the location.” This may include turning off brake lights as well.
If officers are pursuing a suspect or looking for a missing person on private property, the homeowner may not be able to see a uniform, badge or other features identifying the officer and mistake them for an intruder. Recently one neighbor called 9-1-1 reporting suspicious activity related to officers searching the area for a missing man with dementia.
Benefits of the Graveyard
The graveyard shift has its benefits. Officers encounter less commuter traffic which decreases response times for emergency calls and for transporting suspects to the Washington County jail.
During this shift, Officer Doughty can drive roundtrip to the jail in an hour compared to nearly double that time in normal daytime traffic. This time savings can be used to field new calls and assist other officers, which is crucial when the shift is minimally staffed.
Staffing of the Graveyard Shift
Depending on the day of the week, Officer Doughty works with a sergeant and only two or three other officers when the shift is operating at minimum staffing levels.
Nights with limited staffing present challenges for the team. Certain calls, such as domestic violence incidents, require multiple officers to respond for safety. If an officer is dispatched to a lower priority incident such as suspicious activity, they may need to leave to back up an officer on a higher priority call.
During shifts with heavy call loads, the Tigard Police consistently relies on mutual aid agreements with other local police agencies for assistance on an emergency call. Getting along without those relationships is unimaginable as most agencies staff fewer officers on graveyard shift and must work collaboratively as an interagency team to be safe.
Working mostly in darkness, officers must remain engaged and alert despite working against the body’s circadian rhythm, which signals when to sleep and stay awake. Officers combat the natural inclination toward sleep by drinking coffee, energy drinks, or taking short walks.
Even when the graveyard shift ends, officers’ sleep routines are disrupted when they are scheduled to testify in court during the daytime.
The graveyard shift impacts not only the officer but their family as well. It’s rare that a family is able to adjust to the officer’s schedule, so simple things such as homework and family meals require a commitment to maintain.
From the simple to the complex, graveyard shift officers face unique challenges.
- Suspect, victim and witness cooperation can be more challenging when an officer tries to contact them during their shift.
- A blood draw for DUII test can be a lengthier process. If a suspect refuses the breathalyzer test, officers must work with the on-call district attorney to obtain the necessary warrant for a blood draw.
- From 2:00 a.m. to 10:00 a.m., all Washington County law enforcement agencies, except the Sheriff’s Office, share the same radio channel for emergency and non-emergency calls. This becomes challenging when multiple calls are dispatched simultaneously.
While the graveyard shift brings a set of unique challenges, the mission of the Tigard Police is “to protect and serve all who live, play and work in Tigard.” Meeting this mission is not dependent on the time of day or day of the week. It’s a commitment that Tigard Police officers stand ready to provide Tigard residents 24/7/365.
DUII: He was supposed to wait for a cab ride home
The drunken patron was supposed to wait for a cab to drive him home
That was the agreement he made with an officer who found him stumbling out of bushes near the bar. Before the bouncer could call for a ride on his behalf, the patron slinked away, his car taillights in full view as he sped off towards Tigard. Fortunately, Tigard and Tualatin Police officers apprehended him, which resulted in spending the next six hours consumed with trips to the hospital, the police station and the jail. Since the individual refused a breath test (as required by state law), an officer spent part of that time writing a warrant to obtain a blood sample.
This case is one of 104 DUII arrests (Driving Under the Influence of Intoxicants) reported in Tigard from January 2018 to August 2018, a 60% increase from the same time last year.
A driver commits a DUII offense if their blood alcohol concentration is .08% or more. Officers can also charge drivers who are below that level, since visual functions, coordination, tracking, concentration and ability to perform multiple tasks can be impacted, causing traffic safety hazards.
Officer Heather Wakem, a Drug Recognition Expert (DRE), estimates that, on any given Friday, Saturday, or Sunday night, one in ten drivers are under the influence of drugs or alcohol. Officer Wakem also notes that some of these stops involve people driving erratically due to cannabis, pain pills and other narcotics.
“Driving requires high multi-tasking and divided attention between controlling speed, steering, watching your mirrors, being aware and navigating,” says Tigard Officer Mike Davis, a DRE and Standardized Field Sobriety Test (SFST) instructor. DUII drivers, including those using certain prescription or illegal drugs, are unable to manage all of these tasks.
DUII charges stem from calls from citizens and officers who are available to monitor the major arterials of the city, which depends on staffing and call levels. DUII stops require at least two officers—one conducts the evaluation while the other watches the subject and the scene for safety. During the holidays, Tigard Police will often complete grant-funded missions focused on DUII enforcement.
“The decision to arrest someone is based on the totality of their driving, personal interactions with the officer and performance on the SFST,” says Officer Davis.
The SFST consists of a walk and turn, one leg stand and horizontal gaze test, which identifies Nystagmus or involuntary jerking of the eyes, and reveals alcohol and some categories of prescription and illegal drugs. Someone impaired by drug use may pass some of these physical tests, so additional ones are necessary. If there is enough evidence to establish probable cause for intoxication while driving, the subject will be taken to the department for an Intoxilyzer 8000 (breathalyzer) test for alcohol use or urine test for drugs. Blood samples are taken in extreme cases. The results of these tests will determine whether the individual will be prosecuted for DUII.
Tigard Police have three DREs, which has enhanced the Department’s ability to assess drug impaired driving. Becoming certified requires a rigorous application process for admittance into the program, classes, testing and a demonstrated accuracy for evaluating impaired subjects.
Officer Wakem reminds citizens to call the police to report unsafe, erratic driving as it is occurring and provide the vehicle’s make, model and license plate number to the dispatcher where possible. She impresses on the drivers she stops, especially young adults, that they need to know their limits and should seek out alternative transportation.
“If you don’t feel safe to drive,” says Officer Wakem, “an Uber ride is literally $20.” This is a bargain compared to $10,000, which is the national average cost for a DUII offense. Make the right choice—otherwise you may end up in the back seat of a police car.
Tigard Police Work to Address Homelessness
Tigard Police Work to Address Homelessness
Neighbor complaints first brought Officer Brian Orth to a homeless camp off of SW 72nd Avenue in 2016. His exposure to the significant environmental impacts and people at this site motivated him to start doing outreach. Over time, Orth’s frequent contact with, and knowledge of, the homeless residents’ stories shaped his perspective and his approach. Working with Partners
In response to growth of the homeless camps, Officer Brian Orth and Officer Heather Wakem formed a team in 2016 which, when not responding to emergency calls, scouted out campsites citywide during daylight hours. They checked in regularly and provided resources connecting the campers with community partners such as Luke Dorf and Just Compassion to help them find more stable housing and other necessities. Enforcement was typically the last resort.
In one case, the team worked with a homeless veteran with mental health issues who regularly spent his days at a local coffee shop. They connected the veteran with the Salvation Army, Elder Services and a case worker at the Department of Veterans Affairs. As his situation improved, the team found his daughter, who helped him move to a stable assisted living facility. Staffing Concerns
Staffing limitations have prevented the outreach team from working as proactively on homeless issues over the past year. Limited resources mean officers can only react to problems at sites called in through 9-1-1 or the non-emergency number. Many of these calls involve Tigard residents or social service agencies who have safety concerns about vulnerable individuals with mental health and addiction issues and request police assistance.
Over the past year additional camps have cropped up in Tigard. One, which grew to nearly 15 people, drew numerous complaints from neighbors about excessive garbage, human waste, safety issues and drugs at this site. Orth doubts the camp would have grown to this size if officers could have continued to perform proactive outreach activities.
The Tigard Police Department’s vision is to have the staffing available for officers and our social service agencies to reach out consistently and with compassion to individuals experiencing homelessness. This approach can address the safety concerns while the department’s partners provide social and other resources to help homeless individuals transition from the streets to a home.
Officer Massey Has Front Seat to Local Road Rage
Officer Massey Has Front Seat to Local Road Rage
Traffic Safety Officer Nelson Massey has seen drivers display the worst behavior when tempers flare. Incidents have ranged from aggressive tailgating, grown men pushing each other, a hamburger being hurled at another vehicle to the worst case scenario that happened a few years ago—a driver shooting a gun in a fit of rage.
The jump in police calls related to aggressive driving and road rage in recent years, he suggests, is likely related to increased traffic congestion and distracted driving. Tension escalates when drivers frustrated by traffic react to actual or perceived aggression on the road such as drivers trying to circumvent traffic delays.
“People try to maneuver around traffic, using the shoulder and turn lanes as a passing lane, which angers people,” says Massey. “We’ve had drivers side swipe each when one is jockeying for the same lane and the other driver tries to keep the other person out.”
Officer Massey advises drivers to consider the following tips to improve driving conditions:
- Focus on the road and avoid distractions such as cell phone use.
- Allow ample time to reach your destination. When you’re pressed for time, your stress level may increase, leading to more aggressive tactics and intolerance of others.
- If you find yourself reacting to drivers on the road, try to calm down by taking slow, deep breaths or listening to soothing music. Anger can impact attention, reasoning and judgement, which impairs driving.
- Don’t personalize isolated driving offenses. In some cases, a driver may be having a bad day or simply making a mistake.
- Permit drivers to enter your lane when they signal to change lanes. Massey finds that drivers become territorial and crowd out others trying to get in, which exacerbates tensions.
- If you suspect that you cut someone off, a simple wave indicating the error often defuses a situation.
- If someone is tailgating, don’t “brake check” the offender. Officer Massey has responded to crashes resulting from drivers abruptly braking in retaliation for tailgating. On roads where it’s safe to do so, consider pulling over for the driver to pass.
If the situation escalates, consider the options below:
- When encountering a driver yelling at you, making vulgar gestures or acting aggressively, don’t engage. In many cases, the person will leave you alone.
- Call 9-1-1 when someone’s driving or behavior is a threat to safety.
- If there is traffic and you are being harassed, leave enough room between you and the next car so that you are not trapped.
- If a driver is following you, go to a busy commercial area or police station where you can get help. In this case you would want to keep driving until reaching a safe point.
Be safe out there. Focus on safe driving. Don’t let bad driving phase you. Call the police when necessary, and give yourself plenty of time to reach your destination.
Protecting Parking Access for Persons with Disabilities
Protecting Parking Access for Persons with Disabilities
The Tigard Police Department joined other city departments in February to raise awareness about mobility in our community. Tigard police focused on education and enforcement of state law, to prevent unlawful parking in spaces reserved for persons with disabilities. The goal was to educate the public about parts of the statute that are not well understood, and to ensure compliance with the law.
Did you know that that parking in a striped area next to a disabled parking spot is prohibited? This area is known as an “access aisle” meant for safe and unobstructed access to the parking space. The penalty for parking in the access space is the same as unlawfully parking in a disabled parking space: a $165.00 fine. Also, did you know the law can be enforced on private property?
Such common misunderstandings encountered by Tigard’s officers highlight the need for more education.
Tigard patrol officers and community service officers paid extra attention to those protected parking spaces in February, and community education will continue. We have created an informative brochure, “Parking Basics.” The brochure is available in the police department lobby and on the department’s website.
Please join us in keeping those protected spaces clear for those who need them most.
Tigard Police Enforcing Downtown Parking Restrictions
The City’s new parking enforcement strategy supports the realization of a lively downtown area that is a cultural and commercial center for the community.
Beginning in June, Tigard Police began enforcing the two-hour parking limits in the downtown Tigard area. This strategy will maximize the availability of on-street spaces for customers and visitors of downtown.
Due to areas of high customer demand for on-street parking, the city has updated signage and enforcement practices, including the expansion of two-hour parking on Ash Avenue and Burnham Street. Enforcement activities are designed to alleviate parking congestion and/or the lack of available parking spaces downtown.
Downtown Changing, for the Better For years, the city has worked to make downtown an area where residents live and a destination that attracts visitors and residents 18 hours a day, seven days a week. Improvements to downtown and new apartments recently opened on Ash Avenue off Burnham Street mean the city has seen and will see more visitors to the area. Learn more about the city’s downtown parking plan.
Over the summer, Tigard officers issued a series of warnings to violators to help them adjust to the enforcement of signed two-hour parking restrictions. Effective September 13, 2017, officers began issuing citations. The fine for exceeding the two-hour parking limit is $50.
This change to parking enforcement applies only to the signed two-hour parking restrictions as defined in the Tigard Municipal Code. All other state-statute parking violations remain unchanged and fully enforced.
Learn more and comment on the new downtown parking strategy and enforcement.
Tigard Police Work to Address Stress from a Demanding OccupatioN
“People typically call the police on one of the worst days of their life,” says Cmdr. James McDonald of the Tigard Police Department. The nature and intensity of police work may exact a toll on an officers’ health and their professional and personal life unless they can mitigate those impacts. In fact, one 2013 study found officers had significantly shorter life expectancies versus the general population.
“Law enforcement officers are very resilient and able to handle stress whether it is daily, cumulative or critical incident stress,” says psychologist Garen Weitman who works with many police officers. “But they are human, and stress can affect them just like anyone else.”
Challenges Are Many
Recently, officers responded to a traffic accident where a young girl was hospitalized after her mother’s parked car rolled back and struck her. Calls like this one can be difficult for officers to shake off. On a busy day when staffing for a shift is at a minimum level, they may need to respond to the next call without enough time to process an evocative incident.
Many police contacts involve people behaving poorly or the victims negatively impacted. When those exchanges represent most of an officer’s interactions during a week, they may need positive interactions in their personal life to maintain a balanced outlook on people and society.
Officers also must stay hypervigilant to ensure their safety, quickly processing dispatched calls and constantly scanning their environment for potential risks.
Even a simple traffic stop could prove dangerous, so officers will never casually approach a stopped vehicle. During off hours, when they may be out at a restaurant, some officers feel uncomfortable with their backs to the door.
Sustaining this level of attention for long periods can be taxing. When Cmdr. McDonald was a patrol officer and worked busy graveyard shifts, his family would give him space when he returned home. Conversations and simple decision-making could be a challenge following a hectic workday.
Police Department Promotes Wellness
Fortunately, the law enforcement profession is more attuned to the importance of health and wellness programs to offset work-related stress.
The department contracts with health coaches to help employees improve their diet, exercise routinely and use stress-reduction techniques. An employee assistance program is available to provide therapy for stress, on or off the job.
For the last three years, officers have been able to access a peer support group. Supervisors also lead debriefs on major incidents as they occur. These encourage the use of positive coping techniques and healthy extracurricular activities to provide balance to a high-stress job.
Officers strive to provide good customer service—they chose this profession to help people. Some days are especially challenging following difficult calls and too little transition time between incidents. “We’re dealing with unique situations and people with significant challenges on a regular basis,” says Cmdr. McDonald. “It’s important for the public to realize that that’s the environment that we operate in.”
Commercial Crimes Unit Known Nationally for its Casework
A recent investigation might have stalled after the arrest of a Portland man for attempting to cash a counterfeit check at a Tigard bank. Fortunately Tigard Police’s Commercial Crimes Unit (CCU) was able to act quickly when the suspect was arrested. They unraveled a complex scheme involving a Georgia crew that recruited local transients to cash checks and arrested the ringleaders before they fled the state.
“I was floored when Detective TJ Hahn came in the next day and said we caught them,” said Tracey Henderson from B and B Print Source about the arrest. “I was impressed how quickly they put two and two together.”
The CCU’s nimble approach to leads has resulted in the successful apprehension of many out-of-state offenders.
A Decade of Success
Formed 10 years ago, the CCU has allowed detectives to investigate commercial property crimes that previously were designated as lower priorities to violent and other felony crimes. Funded by business license fees, the CCU includes three detectives and a sergeant. They investigate crimes ranging from a stolen tip jar to a significant embezzlement.
Today the team is nationally recognized for its expertise and investigatory work. In the check-cashing case, CCU detectives shared information on the suspects that aided law enforcement agencies experiencing similar incidents in Tennessee, Utah and North Carolina.
Working with Businesses
CCU’s detectives highlight the importance of maintaining strong ties to the business community. “I can’t emphasize enough how important networking and putting a face to a name is,” says Detective Gabe Stone. “When you build relationships with businesses and establish a comfort level, that foundation can help us solves cases.”
Recently, a loss prevention specialist from a major retailer called the CCU to report how trends in southern Oregon were heading north, helping the CCU better prepare. For their part, businesses are receptive to the CCU’s advice about security improvements and ways to more effectively report crime and suspicious activity.
Lately the CCU has seen a jump in counterfeit checks and pickpocketing in restaurants. Whatever the trend, the CCU is prepared to address future commercial crime in collaboration with Tigard’s businesses.
How Well Do You Know Your Police Department?
The Tigard Police Department’s mission is to create the highest level of livability by working with our citizens to preserve and protect life, liberty and property. All members of the department pursue our mission statement every day, and we are proud to provide these essential and vital services to the City of Tigard. Though we work for you 24 hours a day, 365 days a year, many residents may not know how we maintain a community policing agency.
Responding to Calls: Did you know Tigard Police processed more than 28,000 calls for service last year? Those ranged from life emergencies to assisting motorists, locating runaway juveniles, responding to a burglary in-progress to calls about suspicious activities. Numerous arrests were made because observant citizens reported suspicious activity to us.
Do your part by being the “eyes and ears” for our community and make the call when necessary. The telephone number for police non-emergency dispatch is 503-629-0111.
Police Fleet: Did you know your police department uses more than 25 patrol vehicles each day, supporting community policing? Patrol vehicles are in high demand. Three to five vehicles may be out of use on any day for maintenance. Each vehicle will rack up 25,000 miles per year. Last year, our officers drove more than 500,000 miles combined.
Road Safety and Assistance: Did you know during 2016, our officers assisted nearly 13,000 motorists? These included responses to vehicle collisions, mechanical breakdowns and stranded motorists, and other contacts to ensure drivers follow the rules of the road. The department arrested nearly 100 drivers during the same time period who operated a motor vehicle under the influence of alcohol.
We always work to make our roads safer for everyone, including pedestrians. Our traffic team listens to residents’ concerns and works to resolve those issues. Additionally, Tigard officers instructed more than 300 participants last year on the dangers of distracted driving.
Connecting Online: Did you know the department’s webpage received more than 46,000 views last year? Have you visited the page recently to learn more about the department in the community? Explore some of the tools to help you stay safer at www.tigard-or.gov/police. You also can connect with the Tigard police on social media. Find, follow and friend us on Twitter @tigardpolice and Facebook.
Tigard Police Build Community Connections
Tigard Police Build Community Connections
In addition to maintaining a safe and vibrant community, the Tigard Police Department continually finds new ways to make Tigard a better place to work and live. In fact, the department’s mission statement motivates and empowers all members of the force to improve the city’s livability. This fall the department’s programs blazed trails community-wide. Here are a few of ways your department has made a difference.
According to Special Olympics Oregon, the department ranked as the top fundraiser in Oregon for its annual Tip-A-Cop event held on Oct. 21, 2017. More than 20 law enforcement agencies statewide participated. In cooperation with the Washington Square Red Robin Restaurant in Tigard, the department collected $3,850. Restaurant patrons throughout the day contributed to the fund-raising effort. The department thanks everyone who competed in the campaign that brings awareness and needed funding to support Special Olympics Oregon programs. For decades, Oregon law enforcement agencies have supported the Special Olympics and the annual Tip-A-Cop event.
National Prescription Drug Take Back Event
The department’s Prescription Drug Take Back Event, held on Oct. 22, marked the 12th time citizens could safely dispose of their unwanted medications or prescription drugs. Since the program’s launch five years ago, the department has collected several thousand pounds of unwanted pharmaceuticals. The safe removal of unused drugs and medicine for eventual incineration keeps them from being taken by other potential users. It also prevents the medications from tainting groundwater or landfills. The department supports the responsible disposal of unwanted medicine by offering its secure drug return box inside the department lobby, daily from 8 a.m. to 11 p.m. You can learn more about this opportunity at http://www.tigard-or.gov/police/drug_drop_box.php.
Coffee With a Cop
National Coffee With a Cop Day was celebrated on Oct. 7. Since 2013, the department has offered opportunities for citizens to share a cup of coffee with officers in a relaxed and unchartered atmosphere. The overwhelming success of our October event shows citizens welcome this approach. The nationwide success of Coffee with a Cop has fostered renewed police-community relations, benefiting all. The department appreciates the nearly 50 people who stopped by, even to say hello and offer a kind word. Hosts Well & Good Coffee pulled out all the stops for officers and patrons alike. Look for future Coffee With a Cop events coming to a coffee shop in Tigard near you.
The Tigard Police Department has always supported the vulnerable, so they can live safe and productive lives. Like police everywhere, we know adults with developmental disabilities face challenges staying safe as they move about the community. To support their needs, a special program began in collaboration with the Westside Crime Prevention Coalition, strongly supported by the department. In Tigard, the Safety Academy assists adults with developmental disabilities so they are better prepared to avoid risky situations. Officers also help attendees understand when they may be at risk of victimization. Since the program’s start in spring 2015, more than 40 attendees have emerged more confident and knowledgeable as they move through their daily activities both at home and around the community.
Police Encourage Owners to Keep Pets out of Hot Cars
Last summer, the Tigard Police Department assisted with more than 100 calls reporting a dog left in a vehicle appearing distressed from heat. This summer the department wants to get the word out to help owners help their pets and reduce the number of animal-welfare calls.
Hot Weather Hazards
- Hot weather can mean trouble for pets left in vehicles, at risk of heat exhaustion and heatstroke.
- Temperatures in a parked vehicle, even in the shade with the windows partially open, can rapidly reach a level that will seriously harm or even kill your pet.
- Dogs—and cats—cool themselves by panting and by releasing heat through their paws.
- On summer days the air and upholstery in your vehicle can heat up to high temperatures quickly, making it impossible for pets to cool themselves.
What You Can Do
- While police are concerned for everyone’s welfare in the community, including animals, police resources are limited.
- Before heading out, consider if bringing your pet in the vehicle is a safe choice. Your pet will likely be more comfortable at home and will thank you (with kisses).
- If you see a dog in a vehicle that you believe may be in trouble, attempt to locate the owner first. Check with nearby businesses and request paging the vehicle owner.
- Only if that is not possible and/or the matter escalates, call the non-emergency police dispatch at 503-629-0111.
Police Encourage Residents to Prepare for Power Outages
The windstorm that hit our area on April 7 serves as a reminder that everyone should have a back-up plan in place for unplanned disruptions of electrical power. During the storm, the Tigard Police Department responded to multiple calls where homeowners found themselves stranded—either unable to enter or exit their homes.
Residents should have alternative methods to enter a home other than an electric garage door opener. In some recent incidents, residents only carried an opener and did not have a door key. During the recent storm and resulting power outages, they were unable to enter their homes.
Police were also called to residences where the occupants were unable to drive their vehicle out of the garage during an outage. The situation created cases of unnecessary alarm.
All home occupants should be prepared to manually disengage the garage door from an opening mechanism, allowing it to be opened by hand.
Create a plan. Practice. Be better prepared.
Be Smart, Avoid the Scammers
Be Smart and Don’t Get Scammed
Last year, tens of thousands of Oregonians reported being a victim of a crime. Many fell victim to frauds or scams. Data suggest, however, that certain scams are directed towards specific age groups. Further evidence also indicates some scams target ethnic groups, who suspects think will not report such crimes because of language or communication challenges.
Scams are considered a crime of opportunity. Many victims willingly provided the perpetrator personal information or money without checking the legitimacy of the alleged business or the tactics behind the transaction.
Victims have reported being scammed over the telephone, in-person and over the internet. Oregon ranked 25th in the nation for internet-based fraud, according to the FBI in its most recent annual report.
The Tigard Police Department has observed and filed crime reports for nearly all of the 36 different variations of fraud known. Many victims lost money—some a substantial amount. A number of victims said they felt they were being scammed, but the prospect of the outcome overcame their ability to think clearly and stop the transaction.
Tigard Residents Targeted
On a nearly daily basis, Tigard residents report they are victimized to police. The most commonly reported scam involves arrest threats for unpaid traffic tickets or fines. Some victims reported arrest threats due to an outstanding warrant.
Remember, no government agency will call and demand immediate payment of any kind, let alone payment made by a pre-paid credit card or retail gift card. Hang up if you receive such a call.
Victims have also reported to the Tigard police they were threatened with arrest for unpaid taxes. In many cases, the caller demanded a pre-paid credit card or gift card to avoid making an arrest. Once again, the IRS does not call with demands for immediate payment. The IRS communicates through the U.S. postal service.
Residents’ best rule of thumb is to be smart and hang up. Tell a family member if you are unsure what to do. Please, do not give criminals any opportunity to victimize another person.
Remember, hang up if it starts with fast talking, threat of reprisal and immediate demand for money. Report the incident to the police. In Tigard the non-emergency call line is 503-629-0111. To learn more about computer fraud and scams, visit www.IC3.gov.
Just when you think you have heard it all, you receive a call or email with an immediate demand for money. The scammer emphatically states if you do not comply, you will face arrest and/or a substantial monetary fine, physical assault and whatever else the caller has fabricated.
Do not fall victim to this tactic. Legitimate government agencies, utility companies and other businesses do not conduct business in this manner. Simply hang up. In fact, please consider not answering your telephone if you are unsure or unfamiliar with the person calling.
The Tigard Police Department receives numerous calls from residents weekly advising that they are the target of similar scams. The call or email almost always comes with an immediate deadline to make a payment to avoid some extreme action taken against you.
Unfortunately, we also have reports where a victim has followed through with the scam artist’s demands. Please share the information about potential scams with your family and friends—especially those who may be most vulnerable such as the elderly or anyone who may struggle with language or communication challenges.
Almost 100 percent of the time when an immediate demand for money is made, whether through a prepaid credit card or a money wire transfer such as Western Union, it is a scam.
WHAT SHOULD YOU DO?
Although the likelihood is relatively low that local police agencies can arrest the perpetrators, information sharing among law enforcement regarding such attempts to defraud citizens has proven beneficial. Most often, federal agencies who also share in the collected data are better able to track down and arrest those responsible.
In Tigard, the telephone number to report all non-emergencies is 503-629-0111.
To learn more about scams and how to avoid them, go to: https://www.consumer.ftc.gov/scam-alerts.
The aftermath of suicide
Suicides and suicide attempts are a reality for our community with 8 suicides, 20 attempts, and 10 overdoses occurring from January to June 2019 in Tigard. The aftermath of suicide is devastating for families, friends, and community members, who need a lot of support to move forward.
“Families are often in shock—trying to wrap their head around what’s happened and why their loved ones would take their own life,” says Tigard Police Officer Gregston. In the hours and days following a suicide, families and friends experience a range of intense emotions, including deep remorse and guilt. “We want to provide comfort to them and offer resources to ease the situation, even a little bit.”
At the same time, officers may need to investigate the manner of death at the scene along with the Medical Examiner, as is required for deaths that are unattended by a physician. The questions and procedures that follow may appear callous in the midst of such a heartbreaking and shocking experience for the family and create a tense situation.
“They’ve lost a love one due to an aberrant event, but they’re now inundated by police, fire, and the medical examiner,” says Tigard Police Chaplain Mike Ruptak. Additionally, they must make difficult decisions about funeral arrangements and wrap up the person’s affairs. For this reason, Tigard Police and other agencies have on-call chaplains who provide comfort to the family, explain the process of what emergency personnel must do, and offer resources. Chaplain Ruptak pulls from his 40 years of experience to help families, and typically follows up with them 1-3 times as deemed necessary to ensure they are able to connect with a support system, including their communities of faith.
People can support someone experiencing this kind of loss by listening, being non-judgmental, and empathetic. Ideally, the support system can commit to being available over the long run as survivors grapple with their new reality.
“For the vast majority of suicides, families will say, ‘I never saw it coming,’” says Chaplain Ruptak. He also hears from others who were concerned, but thought their loved ones were improving. Because families have never been through this experience, it is difficult to identify that the person was in crisis.
According to Deputy Shannon Wild and Brittany Pincock of the Washington County Sheriff’s Mental Health Response Team, there are indicators that someone may need extra support including:
- Giving belongings away
- Noticeably changing routines
- Dealing with a significant break up
- Losing a loved one, especially to suicide
- Experiencing significant financial issues
- Talking about suicide or attempting in the past
Washington County offers a 24/7 crisis line at 503-291-9111, which is available for people in crisis and family, friends, and community members who are concerned about someone’s mental health. However, if you encounter someone who is a threat to themselves or others, the best number to call is 9-1-1.
Community members naturally want to know about a suicide, especially when it occurs in public. Police are careful about revealing the identity and circumstances of the suicide to allow space for the family to determine the timing of sharing the news or details.
Unfortunately, suicides and suicide attempts are a reality for our community. Police want to be supportive to the families experiencing this loss while conducting their investigation, and will request a chaplain to help them.
When it is time for the next call for service, officers do their best to compartmentalize their experiences to make room for the next public safety concern. Sometimes the transition is challenging when what they just experienced hits close to home. There are those days when our officers rely on the Chaplain, peer, or other support systems to process these experiences.