Dorothy Diehl is the new Community Service Officer at the Keizer Police Department and is serving in a wide variety of roles. (KEIZERTIMES/Eric A. Howald)

By ERIC A. HOWALD
Of the Keizertimes

In the last two weeks of February, thieves made off with valuables from nearly two dozen cars parked outside homes in northwest Keizer neighborhoods.

In police lingo, a theft from a vehicle is known as a car clout and 23 of them in a short span of time was enough to warrant the attention of the Keizer Police Department. It was also a chance for KPD’s new community service officer, Dorothy Diehl, to make herself known on the social media site nextdoor.com She took the info from the KPDS’s crime analyst and reached out to the head of the Greater Gubser Neighborhood Association to have him post it on the Nextdoor site.

“A big part of my job so far has just been getting to know everyone in the building and figure out how I can assist them,” Diehl said.

Diehl has been on the job for about three months and communicating with neighborhood associations and neighborhood watches are just one part of her sprawling, part-time job description.

“It’s kind of the Keizer way of doing things,” said Deputy Chief Jeff Kuhns. “We took a look at what we needed, the money available, and then came up with a job description that included all of it.”

In addition to helping disseminate information on social media platforms and through other means, Diehl is responsible for coordinating and scheduling crime prevention programs, acting as liaison to civic groups, crating and maintaining brochures, recruiting and coordinating non-sworn volunteers, leading tours of the facility and then taking care of the department’s fleet of vehicles, which can mean everything from shuttling vehicles to and from service shops and performing maintenance checks and minor repairs.

In fact, Diehl distinguished herself from the other applicants for the job by being unafraid to change a tire or serpentine belt.

Lt. Lance Inman said he wouldn’t be surprised to see Diehl’s job become a full-time endeavor once the city’s budget allows.

“When she’s not here all that work still needs to be done, and fleet problems don’t occur on a part-time schedule,” Inman said.

One of Diehl’s major undertakings in recent weeks has been reaching out to the city’s neighborhood associations and neighborhood watches.

“I’ve been making cold calls to figure out which groups are still active, which ones want to reactivate and what the department can do to help them in those areas,” Diehl said. “If anyone out there wants to start a new one, we can help with that, too.”

One aspect of the job that could easily usurp her time is monitoring online social networks, not only for problems, but for the spread of misinformation.

In one recent incident, a resident had their car broken into and reported it to police who gave him a case number, which happened to be 1,000. The victim took that to mean there had been 1,000 car break-ins since the beginning of the year and posted that online. The reality is that the victim’s case was the 1,000th one police had responded to since the beginning of the year and that includes everything from public assistance to welfare checks to violent crime.

“We do have problems with car clouts, but it’s nowhere near that level,” Kuhns said. “When that type of misinformation is spreading it takes on a whole new dimension, and we have to prioritize (counteracting) it over other things.”

While those can be some of the more frustrating aspects of the job, Diehl said she has already been part of rewarding tasks at KPD. On her second day, she helped clean up a transient camp in north Keizer and was privy to the discussions between officers and public, she’s also given tours where the visitors started off more afraid of the police and warmed up to them by the end. Both of those have had an impact on how she’s approaching the job.

“I’m excited to be the one going out and shaking hands and being a point of contact for the department. I want to be a resource for the people who maybe don’t have an urgent need, but simply a question they want to have answered about what we do and how we do it,” Diehl said.

Diehl can be contacted at 503-390-3713, ext. 3472, or via email at diehld@keizer.org.