Of the Keizertimes

At 11:30 p.m. Friday, June 2, Sgt. Jeff Goodman and Officer Kevin DeMarco are at the front door of a home where gang members are known to associate – not far from the Keizer Police Department (KPD) station.

DeMarco was first on the scene and Goodman joined him a few minutes later on a report of a domestic disturbance that became a noise complaint. The caller said several juveniles were in the driveway playing music loud.

Goodman knocks on the door, announces the presence of police, and a TV flickering behind a curtain goes dark. Then the world’s worst ninjas try to make their escape.

Behind the home, there is rustling and movement that can be heard in front of the house, it goes on for several seconds as Goodman makes his way around the left side of the house and DeMarco watches the fence along the right side. The pair calls for assistance from the two other officers on duty, Rodney Bamford and Scott Bigler. Reserve Officer Garrett Van Cleave is riding with Bigler. Soon enough, DeMarco spots a young man trying to leap over a fence. He disappears behind the home and approaches with the intent to detain him.

Goodman is still in the backyard and DeMarco returns to the front of the home with a man in handcuffs when someone emerges from between two homes a couple of doors down and begins walking away from the scene.

The figure is out of sight by the time the back-up officers pull into the short dead-end street.

All four officers spend about 15 minutes on the scene trying to figure out what happened before they arrived and why at least two people tried to run. In the end, no one ends up going to jail.

Tonight is something of a rarity, not only has it been what Goodman called “unusually quiet,” there are also four officers on shift. Bamford had the early evening hours off, but joined the night patrol after a family commitment ended.

Even still, Bamford, Bigler and Van Cleave had to leave other calls to back up DeMarco and Goodman. More often than not, the KPD shift has only three officers on duty most nights.

“We run at three because of the ways we have to schedule time off and make up for training hours,” said Goodman, the night shift supervisor.

Department policies require a minimum of three people per night shift, but Goodman wants to see a four-officer minimum become the standard.

“A domestic disturbance call takes a minimum of two officers to respond and, when we only have three officers on shift, we literally do not have enough people to take the second domesticcall,” Goodman said.

To establish a four-officer minimum, KPD needs at least two new officers – a task seemingly easier said than done. Members of the city’s budget advisory committee have advocated for new officers for several years to no avail. City officials are careful about funding new positions anywhere in city offices.

On Monday, June 12, the Keizer City Council will meet for a work session to discuss the possibility of implementing a public safety fee that would pay for five new officers (see related story Page A1). I rode along with Goodman last week to get a ground-level take on how additional officers would impact the KPD night shift.

Domestic disturbance calls are actually one of Goodman’s favorite types of calls.

“If something happened to me or one of my family members, I’d want an officer to show up that knows the laws, understands the situation,” he said. “Everybody gets in verbal arguments. You don’t want an officer there that is not caring.”

After nearly 25 years on the job, finding a resolution to a domestic disturbance is one of the things he can actually feel good about for the most part.

“You might catch a criminal or put three people in jail one night, but then you realize those people’s lives are all messed up,” Goodman said. “In domestics, you can leave the victim – sometimes and even the suspect – feeling grateful you showed up.”

Domestic disturbances can also be some of the more unpredictable calls. Victims, as well as offenders, can turn on police. A week before our ride-along, one victim pulled a knife on Goodman after taking the woman’s husband into custody.

“They call 9-1-1 wanting help and you start dealing with the problem and the victim realizes that the person they love, and who might pay their bills, is going to jail,” he said.

At least twice in recent months, the KPD night shift has been caught short-handed. In March, a would-be burglar got trapped in a window while trying to enter a local store and all of Keizer’s night patrol officers were tied up with an investigation into a menacing incident down the street.

In April, a lack of officers to create a secure perimeter and evacuate a family that was the victim of a home intruder delayed an arrest by almost an hour.

While both incidents were handled as quickly as possible, neither of them rose to the level of life-and-death. Goodman said one of those incidents, in 2014, that led him to begin pushing for additional officers.

About 1 a.m. on March 6, 2014, Keizer police and the Keizer Fire District received a report of a shooting at a residence in west Keizer. It happened at precisely the wrong time.

Goodman said two officers were already on a scene dealing with an intoxicated driver.

“I don’t think it was alcohol, it was drugs. She was basically parked in the middle of River Road and we couldn’t just walk away. She would have killed someone,” Goodman said.

Two officers did respond to the scene, but it wasn’t enough to safely clear the way for medics to enter the home.

“We thought we had the shooter trapped. We could have sent someone through the front door and had one person in the back, but then you have the possibility of chasing an armed person through a residential neighborhood,” Goodman said.

Eventually, the remainder of the officers were able to make it to the scene and determine it was safe for medics to enter. It turned out that the homeowners’ son had shot and killed his mother and grievously injured his father.

However, there was enough of a delay in the immediate response to cause frustration on the part of police and the fire district officials even though it likely would have made no difference in the outcome.

In October 2016, Goodman himself was involved in an incident when a suspect drew a gun on him. Goodman spotted a Honda Civic heading north on River Road at a high rate of speed. After pacing the driver going 46 mph in a 35 mph zone, Goodman initiated a traffic stop. The driver continued north on River Road and turned east on Chemawa before turning into the main entrance of the Safeway parking lot. The Civic then turned back into the parking lot and was nearing the unpaved area when the driver got out of the still-moving Honda and squared up his shoulders.

Goodman was never certain the suspect had a gun, but all of his body movements seemed to suggest it. The man ran to the rear of the Civic and turned in what seemed to be a firing position again when the gun – later determined to be a 1911 Colt handgun – flew out of his hand.

The gun didn’t discharge and the man took off running past Shari’s and across River Road. The gun was later found in bushes near Shari’s and the safety was off. What exactly the suspect intended to do with the gun is subject to some speculation.

Goodman learned later just how far the man was willing to take it. The old gun required the person firing it to draw back the hammer before firing a shot. Upon closer inspection, the round in the chamber had evidence of a hammer strike.

“I don’t know if he tried to fire it and it just didn’t go off, but I think he would have killed me that day. I didn’t realize the severity until it was all over,” Goodman said.

Even as he called for back-up, Goodman never told the two other officers the man might have been armed. He simply wasn’t sure. It was too dark and things were moving too fast. The nearest officer that night was at the station, the third officer was at the Skyline Ford location on River Road north.

“If I yell, he’s got a gun, it’s almost the same as pulling the trigger even if it doesn’t play out that way. I was not there beyond a shadow of a doubt,” he said.

Even on a quiet night, he hands out a few tickets, makes another traffic stop that ends in a warning, looks into the source of some 9-1-1 hang-ups, and checks in on a woman whose partner kicked in the door to her home. When the parties to a domestic dispute are already separated, one officer can take the call, but others are standing by in case the perpetrator comes back.

He even takes a few minutes to interact with a group of teens at an apartment complex in south Keizer. He organizes an impromptu race with the winner getting $1.

Shortly after the scene at the problem house near the station, Goodman gets a call from the Marion County jail. Salem officers have picked up a woman wanted by Keizer police. The woman got into a traffic accident while driving a stolen vehicle. She gave the other party involved someone else’s driver’s license before taking off on foot.

Luckily, the other driver snapped a photo of the woman and police were able to identify her by that. She was in custody at the jail, but Goodman had to physically go there and sign paperwork for the charges from the crash to be lodged against her.

In the end, it will take three times as long to drive to the jail and back as it will to complete the paperwork, but it takes him out of the city and leaves the night shift short-handed while he’s gone.

If Goodman were transporting a suspect to the jail, it might put him out of commission for two or three hours depending on how many other agencies are in line before him. If a Keizer officer ends up at the hospital investigating sexual abuse charges, it could leave them a man down until the reports can be taken.

“The biggest thing is most of the time we can handle most of the calls, but there will be that one day when you need four officers. If we had four officers, I think we would be fine,” Goodman said. “The city council is just gambling that nothing bad is going to happen. All these years they’ve been getting lucky, but the luck is going to run out.”