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Costal Voices: City police: just the facts

For several years now, I have chosen to remain silent when confronted with untruths and misinformation as they pertain to my husband, Police Chief Douglas Plack, or the Crescent City Police Department, choosing instead to assume that the truth would ultimately prevail.

Regrettably, this has rarely been the case.

After reading Richard Miles’ June 3 Coastal Voices piece, “Thoughts on city budget,”unfortunately I feel I can no longer simply remain silent and hope the public learns the truth — the time has come, at least with regard to the issues raised by Mr. Miles — to set the record straight.

To begin with, Mr. Miles suggests that layoffs should be shared in all departments. While the thought of layoffs is always unpleasant, certainly in times such as those we are currently facing where there are limited resources, priorities will need to be set. To suggest that we simply impose cuts evenly across the board without regard to the purpose or adverse effect these those cuts may hold to the city is simply without merit.

Mr. Miles then goes on to allege we have more police officers than we have street workers or parks workers. While I do not know if this is fact, what he apparently fails to recognize is that the Police Department is a 24-hour-a-day, seven-day-a-week, 365-day-a-year operation, with a mission to provide for the safety and security of the public, which to the best of my knowledge, the street and parks departments are not. Consequently, if we actually do have more officers than we have street and parks workers, there appears to be good reason.

Further, does Mr. Miles realize that although the city limits have grown, the number of police officers today is the same as it was in 2003? There has been no increase in the number of sworn officers during my husband’s tenure as chief.

Next, Mr. Miles appears to imply in his statement that somehow my husband is not a “working chief” who works the streets in addition to his administrative duties. I adamantly beg to differ! There are countless hours that my husband is away from home and our family, because he is working long hours outside of his regular office hours. Oftentimes this is in the middle of the night (when Mr. Miles is likely safely asleep in his bed) after he has already worked an eight- to 10-hour day both in his office and on the street.

Just by way of illustration, recently, after working his regular eighty-hour day which started at 7 a.m., he left his office at 5 p.m. to attend a five-hour budget meeting that lasted well past 10 p.m. While on his way home, he observed a car driving erratically and contacted a drunk driver and did not arrive home until almost midnight. Nonetheless, the next day, he was back at work at 8 a.m. as he routinely is.

Just last Thursday, he was called upon to back up one of his officers at Crescent Elk School and along with this officer ended up having to wrestle with a violent young man who was damaging school property.

Finally, in addition to normal workdays, he can also consistently be found on at least one Saturday each month at his “Chatting with the Chief”€ meetings — a program he started to make himself more available to the public, but which also, again, takes him away from his family on a day that is supposed to be his day off.

While I am certainly not complaining, as my husband has chosen to dedicate his life to public service and I fully support him in this endeavor, for Mr. Miles to imply that my husband is not a “working chief”€is downright ludicrous.

Finally, with regard to the School Resource Officer (SRO) and K-9 Unit, again, Mr. Miles, is again sadly mistaken. These were not “pet projects”€of my husband, but were implemented under former Chief West’s administration.

With regard to the SRO, although the school district only partially funds this position, this is ultimately of benefit to the city. In the absence of this funding or the position, the Police Department would still be obligated to respond to the schools in the event of problems, which would necessarily take manpower away from patrol on the street.

Another fact Mr. Miles fails to recognize is that the cost of the two dogs (who by the way have taken numerous pounds of drugs off our street and located individuals suspected of criminal activity) as well as their training and care, in addition to the two K-9 vehicles currently being utilized, were all obtained at absolutely no cost to the city due in large part to the efforts of my husband in securing outside funding for this unit from an anonymous donor.

In fact, that is one more of the activities my husband also routinely works on from our home in the evening hours when he is not working the streets, taking care of his administrative responsibilities, or sitting in extended meetings, i.e. searching the Internet for grants and outside funding that will benefit the city and the Police Department.

So as you can see, contrary to Mr. Miles’ assertions, there are no sacred dogs or cows when it comes to the Police Department, and perhaps I might suggest he do a little research before he decides to circulate his misinformation in the future!

In closing, strangely, I do have to agree with Mr. Miles with regard to one issue: It is truly concerning to me as well that there was such a lack of public involvement with regard to the budget workshops. I wonder if the same will be the case when the Police Department’s budget is cut so drastically that the department is faced with cutting services and laying off officers such that it begins to affect public safety as the criminal element begins to take over?

Perhaps then, the law-abiding public will come out to support the hard-working men and women who put their lives on the line each day to protect the lives and property of those they serve. Unfortunately, by that time, as was the case with the waste water treatment plan, it may possibly be too late.

Sharon Ashby Plack is a Crescent City resident and the wife of Police Chief Douglas Plack.


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