What a relief that the message the Bend Police Department is sending to the public has changed.
Of all the presentations before the Bend City Council in recent years, one of the most peculiar was the Great Doomsday Message of 2012.
That wasn’t what it was called. But it’s hard to think of a better title for then-Police Chief Jeff Sale’s gloom-and-doom presentation of the ghastly future of policing in Bend.
Sale said — based on projections and workload — Bend police were going to have to stop investigating some serious crimes. It could stop investigating all property crimes unless the theft was worth more than $100,000, part of a series of crimes or if the victim is over 65. By 2016, investigations of sex abuse or rape could stop unless the victim was a child younger than 14, disabled or over 65.
The Bend City Council was stunned. So were other county law enforcement officials.
It was a good message to send to the public if your goal was to simply scare it into supporting more money for the police.
The clearest indication that it was the wrong way to make the point is that city staff then insisted concern about what the chief said was overblown.
No, what was overblown was what the chief said.
That’s why it’s encouraging to hear a different tone from today’s Bend police. Sure, it has service level and funding concerns. All parts of city government do.
But instead of hyping a calamitous decline in public safety, Bend police have found a way to restore a service it stopped a few years ago — investigating all “hit and run” vehicle-to-vehicle crashes. It had stopped investigating the minor ones. Now it will start doing those investigations again based on other workload.
Bend’s councilors have to make tradeoffs in their decisions about how to spend the city budget. The choices are not simple. They don’t need them to be made more difficult by departments trying to stoke fear.