Candidates disagree over strength of DA-police ties

Editor's note: This is one in a series of questions Jackson County district attorney candidates will answer in the days leading up to the May 15 primary.

Do you believe the District Attorney's Office has a good working relationship with local police agencies, and are there any ideas you have to strengthen that relationship?

The District Attorney's Office works closely with all police agencies in Jackson County, and I believe we are doing a good job. Last year we successfully prosecuted more than 7,000 cases that were submitted to our office by local police.

The district attorney does not have an investigator, so all investigation is done by law enforcement.

The police and the District Attorney's Office work collaboratively.

Just a few examples of the team approach are the Child Abuse Multidisciplinary Team, the Major Assault/Death Investigation Unit, the Southern Oregon Financial Fraud and Security Team and the Child Fatality review, each of which I have participated in for many years. In each of these teams, we work closely with the police to make sure we put together the strongest cases and educate members of the public.

The deputies in the office also are involved in training police. We currently put on about 40 hours of training for local police agencies each year. I will continue to work with the police departments to offer training opportunities that they feel would be the most valuable.

I believe good communication between our office and law enforcement is crucial. My door is always open to discuss cases with police officers.

Beth Heckert, a prosecutor with Jackson County for 23 years, was promoted to chief deputy in 2000. She is married and has three sons. Candidate website:

David Hoppe

For the most part, the District Attorney's Office works well with the law enforcement agencies.

The Jackson County Child Abuse Multidisciplinary Team (MDT) serves as a model for the rest of the state. The collaborative approach between the agencies and the District Attorney's Office is the envy of many jurisdictions. I spent nearly eight years leading MDT discussions and was impressed with the professionalism of the parties involved. The Jackson County Major Assault and Death Investigation Unit (MADIU) brings many violent offenders to justice.

I have enjoyed working this past decade with detectives as case agents on homicide cases; the MADIU process itself fosters a partnership between investigators and prosecutors that is extremely effective. I would use that partnership as a model for improving relations with the sheriff's office and work to increase the trust level between our agencies.

I will institute an open-door policy on charging decisions; access to the district attorney by law enforcement is crucial. In addition, I will seek enhanced communication between our agencies through electronic case filing and a new case monitoring system. Working together, our agencies can make Jackson County a safer place to live.

Dave Hoppe is a career prosecutor. Law enforcement named him Oregon's first Child Abuse Prosecutor of the Year. He is married and has two children. Candidate website:

Rob Patridge

The relationship is strained and is one of the key reasons that I'm running. The failure of the DA's office to communicate and prosecute tough cases frustrates veteran law enforcement leaders. They are enthusiastic supporters of my candidacy because they know that I will rebuild the relationship.

The last three Jackson County sheriffs — Mike Winters, Bob Kennedy and C.W. Smith — are all supporting me, as are retired Medford police chiefs Randy Schoen and Ray Shipley. The Fraternal Order of Police — which represents more than 70 sworn officers — said, "Rob's collaborative style will restore trust and confidence between law enforcement and the District Attorney's Office."

The law enforcement community has worked with all three candidates. They know us well and their support of my campaign is a clear sign we need change.

How do we strengthen the relationship? Increased, consistent and timely communication. Law enforcement leaders tell me that the lack of technology and accountability in the D.A.'s office hinders their work.

As one put it, "They have been extremely slow to change and they are still doing business the way they were 20 years ago."

We need a real leader to solve today's challenges, not just more of the same.

Rob Patridge has served as deputy district attorney, general counsel for Rogue Valley Manor, state representative and as a Medford City Council member. He is currently general counsel for U.S. Rep. Greg Walden, R-Ore. Candidate website:

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