About 9 p.m. on April 14, 2012, one of the most memorable incidents in recent Turner history occurred.
A 911 call about an intoxicated man eventually prompted a police response that was heard from miles away.
The man, Michael Yann, shot four times at two responding officers from the front porch of his Turner residence in the 7400 block of Seventh Street.
Yann, who was a Department of Corrections officer, then retreated inside his home and fired five more rounds from his front window.
Turner Police Chief Don Taylor was not on duty that night. When he received a call from Turner Police Officer David Walters, he knew right away that something was wrong.
Walters had been shot at.
“I said, ‘Are you OK?’ He says, ‘We’re not hit.’ And I said to find cover,” Taylor recalled. He immediately began to suit up. “It only takes a few minutes to get into uniform but it felt like forever.”
Suddenly Taylor’s phone began ringing off the hook. The incident was called in as Code 0, initiating a response from every agency in the area.
The nearly four-hour standoff ended when Yann surrendered. No one was hurt and he later was convicted of attempted aggravated murder and unlawful use of a firearm. He is serving 10 years in prison and three additional years of post-prison supervision.
City Councilor Mike Taylor — no relation to Don Taylor — lives in a house close to where the shooting occurred. If the city had not had its own officer to dispatch to the scene, he said, the result could have been a lot worse.
“We were watching some TV and we heard what sounded like fireworks. I ran upstairs and saw one of our Turner officers and an Aumsville officer yelling for somebody to drop the gun,” Mike Taylor said. He remembered red lights coming from every direction. “Fortunately we had a Turner officer on duty who was able to keep it from turning into something more dangerous … Had we been contracting with the county, the response time wouldn’t have been there.”
That sentiment is at the heart of why residents of Turner choose to have a one-man police force, rather than contracting for patrol services that could cost them less money.
Taylor has been on his own since Dec. 31.
“For a lot of years it was a two-man department with reserves,” he said.
City administrator David Sawyer said that the city had two officers for a long time prior to 2009, when it afforded a third hire. A decaying economy and falling revenue forced the elimination of an officer, which brought the department back down to two.
In December, the other officer resigned, leaving Taylor, a former reserve officer, the only full-time officer in the department. He depends on three unpaid reserve officers to fill the holes of the rotation when he is not on duty.
A second officer, Chris White, was hired this year but is currently out of commission as he completes training and certification at the Department of Safety Standards and Training. He is expected to start full time in October, Sawyer said.
“It’s a juggling act,” Taylor said. “Time management is crucial. There is so much you have to do.”
His cellphone is on 24 hours per day. Married with three children, Taylor’s family dinners and nights at home often are interrupted the way they were the night of the shooting.
Although he describes it as an honor, the position is not without its costs.
“You give up a lot,” he said. “You miss a lot of Little League games, school performances, you miss a lot of them growing up.”
Correlating with the economic decline, small municipal police departments in the state began to disappear in 2008.
“At one point there were 145, now we’re probably at 134,” said Kevin Campbell, executive director of the Oregon Association of Chiefs of Police.
So just how common is it for small towns to have a police department with a single officer?
Considering Turner’s size and population, it’s pretty rare.
The majority of police departments in Oregon have fewer than 10 officers. But according to the association, in a state of small police departments, a single-member department is unusual. Small towns in Marion County are more likely to have no department at all.
In the case of Donald and Scotts Mills, where no police departments exist, there is a dependency on the county to provide law enforcement. Ten cities in Oregon have opted to contract with their respective county’s sheriff’s offices.
Some have deputies assigned to the city, and others, such as Turner, call on the sheriff’s office to provide certain services.
“Thankfully we have cooperative relationships between city, county and state,” Campbell said. “They count on one another to provide expertise. In the case of Turner, they really will depend on each other.”
There also are some who contract with neighboring cities, as in the case of Dundee and Newberg.
Yet the citizens of some small towns prefer their own agency — even if it means a solitary officer and spending more than a half-million dollars. Local communities sometimes decide to have a police department that is personal to them. For some communities, better protection means knowing a local officer by name and face.
“The reason you have small departments is people like their own police force,” Campbell said. “They want a police force that understands the community they’re policing.”
For Turner, the proof is in the money.
The police department is 50 percent of the general fund. In 2009, the city enacted a police fee of $8 per household. That has been reduced, and now every Turner household pays one dollar on their utility bill to support police.
Contracting with the Marion County Sheriff’s Office for deputy patrol would cost $60,000 less than the city is paying for the police department. But city officials have elected not to do that.
Mike Taylor, a graduate of Cascade High School, has been in and out of the small town all his life. If you ask him, he’d say the people of Turner care about two things: the water bill and the police department.
“The residents have made it really clear that they love having their own police force, and the city has worked to maintain that,” he said.
The city experienced a serious budget crisis about 2009 in the midst of major growth. Turner’s population increased 56 percent between 2000 and July 2012, according to the Population Research Center at Portland State University, from 1,199 residents to 1,865.
That’s faster growth than any other city in Marion County during the same period.
Three to four years ago, a majority of Turner police officers spent much of their time behind bushes with a radar gun, Mike Taylor said. The effect was a disconnect between local law enforcement and the citizens, a major reason he felt compelled to get involved with city council.
“We took a hard look at what we wanted to do with the police department,” Mike Taylor said.
The city sought the help of a consultant and decided that a change in culture at the department was in order.
“We started working toward more of a community-based policing model,” he said.
Led by their chief, who Mike Taylor endearingly calls “Donnie,” the department achieved its goal, he said.
Since Taylor took on the role as police chief, traffic ticket revenue has decreased drastically. Sawyer said the most the city ever made in ticket revenue was $120,000. This year it brought in $21,000.
“As a city, we’re OK with that,” Mike Taylor said. “Everyone is real happy Donnie is around.”
“In the past when there was an issue, a police officer would come knocking on your door and he would be overbearing, domineering and let you know what needed to be done,” Mike Taylor said. “The culture now is they show up to your front lawn and say ‘We have this thing going on, what can we do to solve it?’ ”
Creating a policing model that allows the city and specifically Chief Taylor to provide customer service is a main priority.
“You get this one-on-one community feel,” Sawyer said.
There are times that Chief Taylor has gone above and beyond to ensure that local residents feel safe, Mike Taylor said. He called to mind the Newtown, Conn., school shooting and the emotional impact it made on parents and students across the country. For days following the shooting, Chief Taylor parked his patrol car outside of Turner Elementary School in the mornings so parents would feel more at ease.
“Personally as a resident and parent of kids who go to the school, I appreciated it,” Mike Taylor said. “People want to feel safe, people want to feel like they’re getting looked after.”
Turner resident Josh Horner was hosting a BBQ in the backyard of his home when the Michael Yann shooting occurred. He said he heard shots from his backyard.
But he also heard the police response and wasn’t very worried.
Horner has lived in a residential neighborhood of Turner for about eight years. With work in Albany and family in Sublimity, he said the small town is the ideal location for him, his wife Roxanne, and their two children.
He is well-acquainted with Chief Taylor and is happy with the job he does.
“Don does a great job,” Horner said. “I always wave on the way by.”
Roxanne Horner agreed, saying that the police department is very visible in the Turner community.
Well aware that the department is lightly staffed, Josh Horner said it’s important to know the police who patrol his town. A self-proclaimed small-town person, Horner said he likes to be in the know of who comes through the town and who shouldn’t be there.
In the eight years they have lived in Turner, the Horners have never called 911, and Josh understands that it may take a little longer for the lightly staffed department to respond to non-emergency situations.
Chief Taylor is grateful for this type of understanding shown by citizens.
“We don’t want the reputation of ‘The only time we see cops is when they’re hauling someone off to jail,’ ” Chief Taylor said. “We can’t do our job effectively without the community.”
jdewitt@StatesmanJournal.com, (503) 399-6714 or follow on Twitter.com/Joce_DeWitt