On Jan. 27, I attended the Hermiston City Council meeting. The topic of the night was Hermiston Police Department's participation in the Blue Mountain Enforcement Narcotics Team (BENT).
The Umatilla County Board of Realtors went to the meeting wanting an answer as to why the Hermiston Police Department no longer participates in BENT.
I expected the board of Realtors would present their comments and concerns, and Chief Coloumbe would present his views and the City Council would remain neutral and listen to both sides.
That was not the case. In my opinion the City Council was very rude and aggressive towards the Realtors and clearly had their minds made up before the meeting started. The council members appeared to be more concerned about why the meeting had been brought to a public forum rather than the task at hand.
It is unbelievable to me why the city and its police department would not want to participate in such a valuable asset as Bent. There are 27 drug task forces throughout the state of Oregon that provide an outstanding service for their communities. It has to make people wonder why chief Coloumbe could think all of those department heads are wrong for participating in drug task forces.
Chief Coloumbe appeared to be very proud of his statistics of 128 drug arrests by his officers for the year of 2002. The fact is those numbers paled in comparison to the numbers BENT produced. I did the math on chief Coloumbe's stats. Chief Coloumbe had 128 drug arrests and has 11 patrol officers. That averages as 11.64 arrests per officer, or less that one arrest per month per officer. The BENT team has six detectives assigned to the unit. The BENT team made 860 arrests for 2002. That averages 143.3 arrests per officers, or 11.94 arrests per month per officer.
Looking at those statistics tells me that one BENT officer does more drug cases than Hermiston Police Department's entire patrol force. Granted, all of the BENT team's arrests were not all inside the city limits of Hermiston, but I can assure you that drug dealers and users couldn't care less where the city limit, county line or state line is for that matter.
The drug problem in our area is not just a city problem, county problem or state problem. It is everybody's problem.
The Hermiston Police Department has some very good police officers. But the fact is a patrol officer has to wear too many different hats in a single day to effectively pursue drug dealers.
These are my opinions and views as a member of this community. I will tell you that I will continue to do everything I can as a narcotics officer to combat the drug problem in the city of Hermiston and all of Umatilla County.
Michael Schultz lives in Hermiston.