In 2015 Voters approved the first public safety levy in Polk County, because of the budgetary crisis that we were in at the time. Together with public’s support, hard work from the staff and a vision, we have rebuilt our public safety system. With this current system we are providing effective 24/7 patrol services, we have seen increased prosecution, access to treatment courts, increased victim services, increased court security and now a jail that is working towards reducing recidivism. This is being done by providing alcohol, drug and mental health treatment inside the facility. We have also added a school liaison deputy to help bridge the gap between young people and law enforcement as well as increase safety in our schools. We have increased traffic enforcement on our highways, which has reduced crashes by 56% since 2016. In 2018 alone, Polk County deputies arrested and took 216 impaired drivers off our roads and highways.
Many people don’t think about the jail in terms of its role in the overall system. But, every police department in the county, including the Oregon State Police bring the people they arrest to the Polk County jail. Then the expense and responsibly for care for those inmates statutorily falls onto the Sheriff’s Office. To give you glimpse into the volume of people we see at the jail, in 2018, there were 3581 people booked. This was an increase of 24% from 2016. Also, in the same year, our average daily population in the jail was 158, which is also up 20% from 2016 levels.
I have continually looked to add new services or revise current programs so they are efficient, tested and most of all, work for Polk County. In late 2016, I began working with our partners in behavioral health as well as each city police department. Together we developed our mobile crisis response team (MCRT). This program consists of two teams. One team is staffed by a deputy sheriff and a mental health clinician. The other team consists of a Salem Police Officer and a mental health clinician. These teams are in a patrol car together, so they are able to respond to calls while they’re happening, inside or outside of a city. These teams provide 7 days a week coverage and either team will respond to mental health related calls anywhere in Polk County. This enables us to start delivering critical mental health services at the time of the call and potentially divert individuals from jail who really need specialized mental health treatment. Thus far, these teams have responded to 1167 calls for service and have provided consultation on many, many more throughout the county.
We also reestablished and supervise the Polk County Inter-Agency Narcotics Team (POINT). This includes detectives from the Sheriff’s Office, the Oregon State Police , Dallas, Monmouth and Independence Police Departments along with a prosecutor from the DA’s Office. Together this team focuses on arresting and prosecuting drug dealers throughout the entire county. This team has seized over 11 pounds of meth and heroin since it was reestablished in late 2016. They have investigated over 180 drug trafficking cases, which has resulted in over 200 arrests and convictions of true drug dealers.
One thing your Sheriff’s Office does really well is work together with other agencies, both in terms of law enforcement and with other community stakeholders. This is evident with our numerous multi agency and multi-disciplinary teams that we participate in. We really understand that not one entity can go it alone, it takes a multi-faceted approach to solve the problems that confront all of us. The public safety system is complex, and it takes all parts working together in order to meet the needs of the people we serve. By working together, we have been able to ensure that our public safety system is working as intended and is providing the most efficient and effective services we possibly can.
The public trust that is placed upon me and every members of law enforcement is enormous. I do not take that responsibility lightly nor do the men and women of your public safety system. Thank you for allowing me to serve as your Sheriff.
Sheriff Mark Garton
The Sheriff’s Office provides monthly reports that anyone can download from www.co.polk.or.us/sheriff. These reports show various stats from the patrol and corrections divisions and also the other great things that your Sheriff’s Office does throughout the month.