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Medford police will stop work for sheriff

Dropping some of the sheriff's duties will allow Medford police to clean up their city, officials said.

Medford community service officers will have more time to patrol parks, tow abandoned vehicles and enforce city ordinances once they no longer have to serve subpoenas for state court, officials said. That duty will revert to the Jackson County Sheriff's Department, which is legally required to perform the task.

There's a better use for our people than doing work for (the sheriff's department) gratis, said Mike Dyal, Medford city manager.

Local police departments started serving subpoenas on their own cases when the sheriff's department's budget was cut drastically in the 1980s, officials said.

We didn't have enough people to do it, and the subpoena service was getting delayed, said Capt. C.W. Smith, a former sheriff who now heads the civil and records division in the sheriff's department.

Medford officers were traveling around the county delivering subpoenas free of charge until last year when the service was limited to Medford city limits, said police Lt. Mike Moran. Beginning in April, Medford police will serve court summons only to its own employees in an effort to save time and money, Moran said.

Right now we're looking at budget constrictions in the next couple of years, he said.

Seven community service officers who work 20 hours a week served approximately 1,800 state court subpoenas inside Medford city limits last year, according to police department records. Subpoenas for the city's municipal court are sent via certified mail.

Last year, the sheriff's department delivered approximately 7,700 state court documents, which include restraining orders, divorce papers, repossession notices, in addition to subpoenas, Smith said. The number of papers increased by about 10 percent from 2001, he said.

Already understaffed, the sheriff's department's civil division is looking for help from volunteer deputies, Smith said.

We're into getting the job done, he said.

Local police agencies, including the Central Point office of Oregon State Police, continue to deliver court summons on their own cases, said District Attorney Mark Huddleston. However, those agencies' caseloads are considerably lighter than Medford's, Moran said.

Reach reporter Sarah Lemon at 776-4487, or e-mail