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Ashland to provide Talent police services

Jamie Lusch / Mail TribuneMatt Carpenter, Ashland Police Department, left and Cooper Kamps, Talent Police Department, walk through downtown Ashland on Wednesday.

ASHLAND — The city of Ashland will soon provide police patrol services to the city of Talent through an intergovernmental agreement.

City Manager Pro Tem Adam Hanks described the proposal, approved unanimously by Ashland City Council on May 4, as a “short- to medium-range partnership solution” that provides necessary services to the city of Talent and establishes partnership flexibility going forward.

Per the IGA, Ashland will provide 12 hours of police coverage for the city of Talent, adding to a long-standing supportive relationship between the two law enforcement agencies, backed by shared community character and ideology, Ashland Police Chief Tighe O’Meara said.

“Because of some staffing shortages that the Talent police department experienced in 2020, we started talking about whether or not it would be mutually beneficial for us to take over a chunk of their policing,” he said.

Preliminary discussions have begun about combining police services for both communities into one agency — something for consideration farther down the road, O’Meara said.

Talent will pay Ashland $375,000 per year for 12 hours of patrol services per day — generally 7 p.m. to 7 a.m.

To manage the workload, the Ashland Police Department will add two police officers, raising the force to 30, bringing an additional position to the city of Ashland’s patrol capacity in the process, O’Meara said.

One Talent police officer APD planned to recruit prior to the agreement is well-suited to take up one of the roles, O’Meara said. The second will be an entry-level officer.

“In a way, the downturn in our work from COVID has lent itself to our ability to do this,” O’Meara said. “We’re uniquely positioned to cover this as we inevitably get back up to the crime load and the caseload that we saw before COVID.”

The hiring of two officers will account for about $253,000 of Talent’s annual bill. The remaining amount will cover Talent’s access to APD detectives, training, on-duty supervisors and to make it “financially beneficial for the city of Ashland to participate in this endeavor,” O’Meara said.

The city of Talent has shown amenability to increasing the annual charge to $400,000 if their financing allows and services are proven adequate, he said.

APD can absorb equipment costs, O’Meara said, though vehicles and equipment are not specifically outlined in the current IGA.

Having 24/7 public safety coverage is especially important during the Almeda fire reconstruction period, said Talent Interim City Manager Jamie McLeod-Skinner. Some grant funding related to rebuilding has been earmarked for the police services agreement, she said.

“One of the issues that has come up is theft of construction materials,” McLeod-Skinner said. “Part of this partnership would not just be a mutual commitment to the good police work that both Chief O’Meara and Chief Snook do, but also an opportunity to help our region rebuild and regrow after the fire.”

All Ashland City Councilors and Mayor Julie Akins highlighted the agreement as a positive step toward regionalization of public safety services, a strong example of collaboration after a crisis and a reason to be proud of the APD. With approval from both Ashland and Talent City Councils secured, the arrangement is slated to take effect June 1.