Former Baker City Police Chief concerned about 24-hour patrol cuts

BAKER CITY — The current chief of the Baker City Police Department faces robust criticism from a former one.

Former chief Wyn Lohner tells Elkhorn Media Group in a letter that Chief Ty Duby’s plan to cut 24-hour-patrols and not have officers on the streets during early mornings is “wrong in so many ways that it borders on pure negligence” and goes on to call the plan “idiocy.”

Duby announced this week that due to staffing issues and extended strain on his officers, he plans to not have patrols during a four-or five-hour period in the early morning, most likely 2:00am to 6:00am or 3:00am to 7:00am. 

Police will continue to respond to certain calls during that period, such as crimes against a person in progress.

Below is the text of Lohner’s letter, who served as Chief of Baker Police for 12 years and retired in 2018.

In an interview this week with Elkhorn Media Group, Chief Duby discussed some of the concerns mentioned in the letter and also clarified his reasoning to cut back on patrol hours. Click here to read that article.

I am completely unable to understand how any law enforcement professional could propose less than 24 hour patrol coverage for the community and citizens of Baker City. This ideology is wrong in so many ways that it borders on pure negligence. If staffing was cut in half I could understand it, but not with only 2 vacancies.

To start with, it takes just as many officers to fill 10 hour shifts as it does 12 hour shifts. Yes, you save a measly 2 hours of overtime if you have to cover a shift and you save an additional 8 hours of vacation added to each officer’s accrual each month, but at what cost to the citizens of Baker City?

Second, a staff of 13 officers, or even 11 officers, still allows the department to provide 24 hour coverage with 2 patrol officers on each shift and a sergeant to overlap. That sergeant can then fill in when an officer is on leave, without the cost of overtime, just as it is when the department is at full staff. What this requires is the “leadership” to move detectives back into patrol, as I did many times throughout the 12 years I was Chief of Police in Baker City. Is that ideal, no; but having patrol officers on the street ready to respond to any call for service at any time during the day or night in Baker City, especially the 10% quoted in the article, is far more important in my opinion than having a detective sitting at a desk on day shift. Currently there are 3 sworn officers dedicated to investigations. Many times in the past BCPD has operated with only 1 and sometimes no detective, allowing full coverage for the community.

So what happens if this proposal becomes reality? Well, if you’re one of the “10%” that needs the police at 4:00am you will be waiting a while. The article states there will be a supervisor on duty “at all times”, but from where? Is he home in bed? If so and if that’s a sergeant or other union member, the city will be paying them “Standby Time”. What does this cost? I don’t know and neither does the city as this will have to be “bargained” for through a labor negotiation process. Otherwise, that supervisor will not be obligated to answer the phone when dispatch calls. If they do answer, then who does that supervisor call? A patrol officer being paid for “Standby Time” or someone they hope will answer the call? Let’s suppose everybody answers the phone. They now have to get up, get dressed, get the information and go. But wait, what if it’s a freezing and/or snowy night and their car is not parked in a garage. Now they have to get their car safe to drive before they can respond. How long does this take? Or are the officers going to be required to build a garage and keep their cars ready to respond at any time of the day or night during the 5+ months of winter in Baker City?

You may ask what could happen during those hours of no police coverage. Let’s say an officer can do all the things I outlined above and get ready in 15 minutes (to be very gracious) and then respond, pushing it to a 20 minute response time. Well, how long would it take you to smash through the doors of any business in Baker City and steal their guns, jewelry, vehicles, safes, ATMs, etc. and leave? Does the city administration not believe that the gangs and other criminal entities, which operate out of cities in our region, won’t take advantage of this?

So far I’ve only mentioned property crimes. What about the domestic violence victim or other assault victim that needs an officer to respond? How much damage can be inflicted in 15-20 minutes? What if they couldn’t call 911 until after the attacker left and they are in need of an ambulance, which is providing 24 hour coverage? Well, that ambulance is not going to respond and help you, until the police have responded and declared the scene safe for medics.

The list of bad things that can happen when no police are on duty in a city of 10,000 citizens, who have had 24 hour coverage for decades, is virtually endless. The last one I’ll talk about is liability, which perhaps will really ring loudly for the City Council. What happens if one of the victims in the “10%” is seriously hurt and or dies, when it may have been prevented or minimized with 24 hour police coverage and knowing the city could have provided that coverage? Well, let’s just presume the litigation costs will be enormous.

I could go on and speak to the differences between city policing, county policing and state policing, specifically as to how the county and state get away with less than 24 hour coverage and what happens with investigations without detectives, but I’ll refrain for now. What I will tell you, citizens of Baker City, is that life is full of consequences and I believe you will pay a steep price, in multiple ways, if this idiocy goes into effect.

Wyn Lohner

Baker City

Lohner later added the following

Another issue with reactive “call outs” when no officer is on duty is that the majority of those calls should be handled with two officers, not one, for obvious safety reasons. With the Baker City Police Department’s current labor agreement, that means a minimum of six hours of overtime. If they don’t send two officers, the safety risk to the victim and to the officer goes up exponentially, as does the liability risk. Gordon Graham has been the leading Risk Management expert for Law Enforcement for years now. His favorite saying is simply, “If it’s predictable, it’s preventable.” My hope is that the city of Baker City stays with a preventative approach.

Chief Duby says he invites anyone to speak with him who wants to voice their concerns on the plan to by calling or stopping by the police department.