EUGENE — The Eugene Police Department disregarded one-third of the daily average service calls it received, according to recent statistics from the department.
Interim Police Director David James recently told city councilors the department did so because the calls were deemed low priority and no officer would be available — either immediately or hours later — to respond, The Eugene Register-Guard reported.
Figures from the police department also show that when police or 911 dispatch supervisors do respond to crime reports, it’s taking longer for officers to get to the scene.
Police officials attribute the decline in police service to there being too few officers on duty to respond to a growing number of calls for service.
The department’s officers “just can’t keep up with (the number of calls),” said Patrick Willis, the police union’s vice president.
Willis acknowledged that many low-level calls fall by the wayside and called the situation “a disservice to the community.”
City leaders are taking notice and launched a broad discussion about public safety that could eventually lead to a ballot measure to pay for more police officers.
To expand the force, residents may be asked to pay more in taxes even as the police department’s budget has grown by nearly 11 percent in four years.
It wouldn’t be unprecedented if city officials eventually decide to ask voters to approve a public safety operating levy.
In 2015, voters approved a separate tax levy to improve and expand library services. In May, voters will decide another separate tax levy to improve the parks and recreation system. That measure includes money to increase security in city parks and along bike paths.
In a Feb. 20 presentation to city councilors, James said Eugene’s population has grown by 7,000 in four years, but the number of sworn officers has remained unchanged.
The force has the budget to pay for 192 sworn officers; seven of the positions are vacant. Sworn officers include patrol officers, detectives, officers assigned to the downtown and university details, and department brass. The department employs 121 patrol officers.