HERMISTON — New statistics detailing annual crime and patrol numbers in 2019 show that from a policing standpoint, things are looking up for the Hermiston Police Department.
In 2018, traffic stops in Hermiston dipped more than 1,000 below the 10-year average as officers were reshuffled in the wake of staff illnesses and absences.
“2018 was a horrible year for trying to stay ahead,” said Police Chief Jason Edmiston said. “We expected a rebound in 2019.”
That’s exactly what the department got.
In 2019, traffic stops saw a 36% upswing from 2018. Total issued citations increased by 29% to 6,593.
Calls for service increased by 3%, which Edmiston acknowledges is a small jump, but after the consolidation of the Hermiston Dispatch Center with Umatilla County’s Regional 911 Dispatch Center in 2014 may have made it harder to track calls, it means a lot.
“As the population continues to trend up, the calls for service are trending up. Everything is encouraging,” he said.
He added that an increase in calls for service demonstrates a level of trust between civilians and law enforcement.
But it would seem more of those calls may have been about violent crimes in 2019.
The city’s 10-year annual average for violent crimes is 35 per year. Since 2017, Hermiston has averaged more than 40 violent crimes a year and 2019 was no different, logging 45. The city also saw a jump in reported aggravated assaults — 34 in total in 2019 compared with the 10-year average of 22 cases per year.
For Edmiston, that jump is part of something bigger.
“(The increase) is from a trifecta of technology, the public acting more violently, and legislative changes.”
Edmiston attributed a possible rise in aggressive behavior to continual drug decriminalization in the state.
In addition to crime and patrol statistics, the Hermiston Police Department tracks records requests. And all through 2019, the department saw a 39% increase in information requests, from 2,730 to 3,801.
“What we’re hearing, and what we believe, is that because we’re so responsive, people come to us for information,” he said.
Edmiston added that recently the records department adopted new software to simplify the tracking of information requests.
“That increase is pretty significant,” he said. “Because of that, we’re adding another position.”
Later this year, the police department intends to create another administrative office position to help filter requests even quicker and keep the police station lobby open as frequently as possible.
“At the end of the day, we try to be transparent,” Edmiston said. “We need to get our hands around this.”
And in terms of state-level data, the agency is waiting.
Edmiston said that likely this summer, state-mandated data tracking traffic and pedestrian stops for smaller and medium-sized police agencies is anticipated to debut.
It’s the same type of data that in 2019 showed Portland police were twice as likely to perform searches on black people than white people.
But Edmiston isn’t too worried about the prospect of such disproportionate numbers in growing Hermiston.
“I think we’re going to be somewhere in the middle. I don’t think we’ll see huge spikes,” he said.
As for the rest of 2020, Edmiston said a five-year contract for body cameras will be renewed. Come summertime, the agency will hire its third school resource officer.
“I’m kind of just hoping for a status quo kind of year,” he said.