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General rule: Agencies stick to jurisdictions

How are jurisdiction issues handled in Medford with respect to things like traffic? Do only MPD officers write citations in the city, and then Jackson County Sheriff's Office handles roads that aren't the interstate, and then OSP handles the highways? Can't recall the last time I've seen a sheriff's car stopping somebody in town, although I find it hard to believe people don't commit traffic violations in front of these other agencies' officers. Or do you guys view the violation and then call MPD to do the ticket? It came up because I was reading an old article of yours where somebody was complaining about speeding, and in your column you suggested that because it was in the city limits, they needed to call MPD, presumably because the Sheriff's Department can't operate in the city limits, or some such.

— Anonymous

OK, here's the Reader's Digest version, sort of. Let's start with the traffic issue first. All peace officers in the state, regardless whether they go by trooper, deputy or officer, are empowered throughout the state of Oregon. While it's discouraged that I would take enforcement action in say, Salem, I could if the need were great enough. Even then, our policy would be for crimes, not enforcing minor violations, which most traffic offenses turn out to be.

Locally, as a kind of general working agreement, OSP handles the interstate and state highways, the Sheriff's Department handles county roads and city agencies handle roads within their cities. But, a lot of times a trooper will be much closer to an incident on a county road and will handle it, same as a close-by deputy on the Interstate.

Nothing prohibits OSP or the Sheriff's Department from patrolling or enforcing on any type of road or within a city. Cities usually like their officers staying within the city limits, where they are serving the needs of their taxpayers. So you won't find Medford police patrolling in Shady Cove. Plus, they don't generally need to leave their city to go to court or their office or maybe lodge someone at the jail, so they don't venture out too often.

However, OSP and the Sheriff's Department may frequently be in town to lodge prisoners in the downtown jail, go to court or stop by the main office. If someone runs a red light, then enforcement would happen immediately by the officer who witnessed the violation. They would not call for a city officer for citation purposes.

As such, if someone calls in a traffic complaint for speeders, the Sheriff's Department will not work it if the area is within Medford's city limits, but would pass the information along to Medford for their traffic team to work.

When it comes to crimes, which agency handles the incident is determined by the location of occurrence, so if it happened in the city, then they would get it, while unincorporated county areas would fall to either OSP or the Sheriff's Department, that being usually determined by which dispatch center was called when the complaint was made.

Dace Cochran, a patrol sergeant with the Jackson County Sheriff's Department, writes a weekly Q&A column on police issues for the Mail Tribune. Have a question for him? Write to Mail Tribune Newsroom, P.O. Box 1108, Medford, OR 97501, or e-mail cochradc@jacksoncounty.org.