POWERS — A group of concerned citizens met with newly-appointed Powers Police Chief Robert Baker on Thursday at the VFW building to talk about the role of law enforcement in the area.
The roundtable meeting between Baker and the citizens of Powers began with a brief introduction of the new police chief followed by an open floor discussion of topics and issues that residents raised about their community.
Among those issues included frequent traffic violations, gas theft, drug trafficking and general safety around the city. A few people spoke out about the steadiness of burglaries and gas theft they’ve experienced or have seen happen in the area in the last three to four years. One resident talked about the only gas station in town being robbed twice and left empty of fuel.
In response, Baker said he was looking into the police department’s budget to see if he could purchase a couple of extra cameras to mount around town including the gas station. The increased surveillance will act as a deterrent for those thinking of stealing, said Baker.
He also talked about increasing community involvement and policing. In a one-man department, Baker said having multiple people keep an eye or ear out on their surroundings and reporting it to dispatch would help the department crack down on criminal activity.
Baker also went on to disclose his upcoming plans for the police department which include an update on the department’s equipment and dispatch system and purchasing body cameras for officers to wear.
“The biggest thing I want to do is to raise the department up to industry standard,” said Baker. “I am working of getting some funding for next year so that we can be in a spot where we can add another full-time officer.”
He also talked about increasing the presence of other surrounding police agencies in town and improving on the department’s relationship with those agencies.
Dawn Walter, the meeting’s organizer, said after hearing so many rumors around town about its new police chief that she wanted to get people together to clear the air and have their questions answered directly.
“Powers hasn’t had the best reputation in the surrounding communities,” said Walter. “This event was about getting people together to feel empowered and to know our town does have good people and that it’s a beautiful place to live.”
Baker, who worked previously with the Josephine County’s Sheriff’s Office and Myrtle Creek Police Department, has been working in Powers for about four weeks. Baker said he was told by some community members earlier on that they would run him out of town. Despite those comments, Baker said he intends on staying in Powers for the next 20 years.
“I was told there was a 'good-old boy system' here and that there were favoritism shown to certain people in town,” said Baker. “I don’t care who you are, what your past is or who you know, everyone is getting treated the same. People are going to be held accountable for their actions from now on and that’s across the board.”
Before the arrival of Baker, the Powers Police Department was vacant for about six months. At the next city council meeting, Baker said he will propose his plans to the board and talk about the future of the department.
“Going forward I hope to continue to bridge the gap between the community and the police department,” said Baker. “I want to be as transparent as I can and work together with the community to make this city a beautiful place for people to come enjoy.”