During Jason Edmiston’s first year as chief of the Hermiston Police Department, staffing levels have changed, nearly every supervisor in the department is in a new role and new programs have been added.
And at the center of it all, the police force has opened lines of communication with the rest of the city.
Edmiston was placed in the acting chief role Aug. 22, 2011, when former chief Dan Coulombe was put on administrative leave. The Hermiston Police Association had demanded a review of Coulombe’s management practices in a letter to the city council, citing a 90 percent vote of no confidence.
Coulombe resigned Sept. 13, 2011, almost a month before the review was complete. It later stated Coulombe fostered an “organization of fear” in the city police department.
Edmiston was officially appointed chief May 14 during a Hermiston city council meeting.
Hermiston city manager Ed Brookshier and city council president Jackie Myers said the lines between city government and the department are open under Edmiston’s direction.
Brookshier used an upcoming public safety committee meeting, which will focus on goals for 2013, as an illustration of improved communication.
“That will be a group discussion, not just the committee and the chief,” Brookshier said. “There will be a lot of people from the department there and it will be a collective discussion about what is important.”
Myers said Edmiston is diligent about interacting with the council and public safety committee, but she also appreciates that officers are willing to participate in discussions as well.
“We didn’t have the opportunities to do so before,” Myers said.
During his time leading the department, Edmiston has added three new officers, two detectives — property crime and gang intervention — and four new sergeants. He also promoted from within the department to fill his former position.
Edmiston said next year a permanent traffic position will also be added as well, with a motorcycle officer assigned to monitor Highway 395.
“That is where the majority of complaints are — traffic and related to speed on Highway 395,” Edmiston said. “It makes sense to have one person focusing on (Highway) 395 and all other officers focusing on crime.”
A police chaplain program was started in October 2011 and now has three local pastors serving as department chaplains. Edmiston said this program is used often both in the department and out, assisting with death notifications or any personal matters people in the department may be dealing with.
“We are just seeing the tip of the iceberg for that program,” Edmiston said. “They are (Hermiston police department) chaplains, but if available they can be used by other entities.”
Brookshier said the department’s changes are on the right track, but require continuous attention.
“This will continue to be a point of emphasis in 2013 along with surveying a field of potential policing priorities,” Brookshier said. “We will begin to focus on where we feel those priorities should be.”
Contact Anna Willard at firstname.lastname@example.org or 541-564-4536.
This story originally appeared in East Oregonian.