By Curt Chancler & Jeanne Wollman
JACKSON CO., OR – Bad law enforcement by nature is a disaster waiting to happen. In fact, there are no accurate statistics to count its victims or the dollar cost to the taxpayers. The average citizen has very little understanding of the complexities of law enforcement, much less those of bad law enforcement and its effect on their rights, freedoms, and safety. Common sense dictates that the people in law enforcement mirror our society. They bring to their job all of the ills of society. The obvious difference is the unfettered power and control they have over your life. The single most important authority that law enforcement has, to serve justice and the people, is the truth. A police officer armed with the truth and the character of his convictions can truly protect and serve. On the other hand a bad police officer with a lack of character, can and will, lie to achieve what ever his or her goals may be. A single lie told by a bad officer can cost the recipient or a loved one their family, freedom, fortune, future, and in some cases even their life.
Seven years ago, long before we took on the role of reporters we both were involved, along with other citizens in forming a citizen study group. This study group took on the task of taking a hard look at law enforcement, the judiciary and local government in Jackson County, Oregon. Jackson County is home to several small towns, most of them having a police department. Medford is the largest. Shortly after the group was formed we began to hold public meetings to get public input on numerous issues.
During the first meeting held, we heard a host of complaints from citizens about Jackson County police departments. Most of the complaints were about the Medford Police Department (MPD). In the beginning we just assumed that was because M.P.D. had the largest concentration of businesses and people, therefore police contact with citizens would be higher, therefore complaint numbers would be higher.
After a year of public meetings one thing became very clear from the citizens complaints. (1) These complaints were from people that lived all over Southern Oregon and Northern California, not just those living in and around Medford. (2) The complaints were of a much more serious nature in Medford. These complaints were not the usual, I was not speeding, the cop was a jerk, or the cop lied in his report. The complaints on M. P. D. included the normal ones mentioned above, but they also included excessive force, the taking of property, cash , lying under oath in court, lying on police reports, soliciting sex, and even the threat of retribution if a complaint was filed.
Most of the members of our study group found it very hard to listen to some of the complaints against M.P.D. because many of our members have friends and family who work for M.P.D. and we know that the Medford Police Department has some of the finest police officers in law enforcement in their employment . However as a study group we have continued to gather information on every law enforcement department in Jackson County and because M.P.D. still has the highest complaint numbers made to our study group, they have become the main object of our investigation. In our opinion M.P.D. has a host of problems, one of the most obvious is they have to many cowboys on the street, mainly on night shift, that think the rules don’t apply to them. Maybe they need to be told that one third of the work force in this county works either swing shift or graveyard and not everyone out late is a criminal. Maybe the bad officers need to look up probable cause and while they have the book open check out the Constitution and the Bill of Rights. A glaring fact that has been brought to our attention is that there are a lot of fine men and women that wear that same uniform and they are sick and tired of being judged, because of the bad results from the bad practices that bad officers pull on the citizens of Medford. Another M.P.D. problem is that they have a “good old boy” group that has been there far to long and we have been told by people who work there now, and people that have worked for M.P.D. in the past, that it’s very hard to make rank unless you belong to that group. One such member of the “good old boy” group is Lt. Tim George. George has been on the force for 28 years and recently announced he would run for Jackson County Sheriff in the next election. All citizens should look close and hard at the survey at the end of this article before giving him their vote. And, while looking long and hard they need to realize the survey was taken from a broad section of Medford residents.
On the positive side, citizens should not despair. Things are looking up as the word is some of the “good old boys” of M.P.D. are leaving. Now we need to keep them from coming back and double dipping off the taxpayers. Another of the “good old boys” is Chief Melgren, or as the working cops of M.P.D. refer to him, Old R.O.D. (retired on duty). The way we see it, if Chief Melgren knows what has been going on for years and has done nothing about it he needs to go. If the chief has been there all of these years and did not know what was going on, he still needs to go.
As a study group, we have a booth every year at the Jackson County Fair and every year we do random polling on different issues. Most of the surveys ask the person’s age, political affiliation, whether male or female and how the person feels about different political issues. This year we added a local law enforcement survey.
The survey read: In your opinion which of the following police agencies in our area have the reputation for being the most violent or corrupt. (1) Oregon State Police (2) Jackson County Sheriff (3) Medford Police Dept.
Keep in mind that this is not a scientific survey or an in-house statistic, but a random poll of adult fair goers. Out of the 106 people surveyed the Oregon State Police had zero votes, the Jackson County Sheriffs Department received five and the Medford Police Department one hundred and one.
Before sending this article to press we called Lt. Mike Moran, M.P.D’s media officer for comment. As of press time he had not returned our call.
M.P.D. and the “good old boys” will be featured in our next edition.