A visibly frustrated Toledo City Council sent a message to the Siletz Tribal Council Tuesday night, that unless they agree to a certain minimum fee for service, the Toledo Police Department will not be patrolling the streets of Siletz as of 12:01 am New Year’s Day.
The dispute stems from reductions in fees the tribe pays Toledo for patrolling the streets and investigating crimes committed in Siletz and on tribal lands around Siletz. Toledo Police Chief David Enyeart says the last offer from the tribe was to provide only enough revenue for 40 hours a week coverage which he says would not provide back up support for an officer if he got into a dangerous situation while on patrol or answering a call for service.
Chief Enyeart told the council that the cost of an officer to patrol Siletz is $126,000 a year when you figure in full time salary, retirement, medical coverage, patrol car, equipment, uniforms, and occasional overtime. He said it takes a minimum of two officers working closely together to cover the area 80 hours a week and to respond to the the high level of calls they get from Siletz. Chief Enyeart said the latest offer from the tribe is no where near the $252,000 minimum required by Toledo Police.
The Toledo City Council sympathized strongly with Chief Enyeart’s predicament and reinforced their commitment to provide police services to Siletz but only if the tribe covers the real costs of providing that service. Enyeart said he’s convinced that the tribe is truly grateful for the current level of police coverage but that they can only provide so much money. So, come next January 1st, Toledo Police will not be providing police protection to Siletz unless the tribe comes up with the minimum cost for service.
With diminishing revenues coming from the tribe, and fewer hours of coverage, Chief Enyeart has had to eliminate one officer position on the force over the past 18 months. If Toledo Police pulls out all together, it could cost the department yet another position. But Enyeart said they may be able to avoid that if funds were found somewhere else in the Toledo city budget.
With the possible withdrawal of police services by Toledo, it would leave only the Lincoln County Sheriff’s Office to step in and resume covering the area like they did up to five years ago. But with their deputies scattered all over the country, it’s highly unlikely they could come close to offering the regular patrol activity now provided by Toledo Police.
The town of Siletz itself has no real tax base to speak of and therefore could not afford to hire a police force without a tax override from its voters. One irony is that the Siletz municipal court levies fines based on tickets written by Toledo Police officers. Without those regular police officers, the muni court and the income it generates for the town goes away too.
The Toledo City Council told Chief Enyeart to inform the tribal council that the minimum fee for police coverage is $252,000 a year for two officers. Without that, the town is back in the hands of the county Sheriff’s Office. Sheriff Dennis Dotson offers two officers to be responsible for the town of Waldport at an annual cost of $350,000, one hundred thousand more than what Toledo says is their minimum price for giving Siletz even a higher level of patrol services.
Chief Enyeart is expected to sit down with the tribal council toward the end of the month to try to salvage comprehensive police services for the Siletz area. But again, it comes down to covering costs, he says.