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An Acts Matter Essay


Police officers powerfully impact our lives, now and in the future. Their conduct in the performance of their duties can have a lasting impression on people involved in an incident as well as bystanders. If the police do a good job of relating to us both when we are young people and adults, they can influence how we behave when the police are not around.

Let me tell you a story.

When my daughter Sarah was 6 years old, she witnessed an automobile accident while sitting on her swing in the front yard. She was the only one to see the crash other than the two drivers, who had competing views of how the collision occurred. The investigating officer asked me if he could speak with my daughter about it and I readily agreed.

The officer was thoughtful and had young children of his own, and Sarah was not afraid to tell him her vivid recollection of the incident. That experience as a young child surely had some type of positive influence in Sarah's life. She now represents police officers (and firefighters and school employees) as a public employee union lawyer in Portland.

We all have the right to expect our police officers to be courteous, fair and diligent, and, on the whole, I would say that those expectations are met by the Ashland Police Department.

Anyone who has been in need of police assistance in Ashland is probably grateful for the quick response time and good service. Most people who have been cited by an Ashland police officer will probably tell you that they were treated fairly and courteously.

I was asked by the Daily Tidings to write about the Ashland Police Department, but since leaving the Ashland Municipal Court bench at the end of 2006, I have had little opportunity to observe the department except while driving around town.

My response to a police car on the street, now, as a 65 year-old former judge, is the same as when I was a teenager: I check my speed, my heart races a little if I am going too fast, and I slow down, but I try not to be too obvious about it.

During my 28 years on the bench, I observed thousands of times when a police officer was called to testify about an incident and explain how he or she responded. I have to admit that I don't miss sitting through hours of testimony, but I do have some fond memories as well as a few unpleasant ones.

There are certainly going to be incidents where the interaction between a police officer and a member of the public results in a negative impression of the police. Those of us who grew up watching "The Lone Ranger" probably hold police officers to a higher standard of conduct than the average person. For the most part, that expectation is justified because we entrust our safety to police officers, but we can hardly expect someone to be unmoved by threats or insults, which a police officer must endure from time to time in the course of his or her duties.

If you feel that you have a grievance against a police officer, you can file a complaint with the officer's supervisor and you can expect that your complaint will be investigated. If the investigation reveals misconduct by the officer, you can expect that the officer will be subject to some type of discipline — and the police officer can expect to be treated fairly by his or her superiors.

If a police officer is accused of something or subject to disciplinary action, the officer may be assisted by his or her union representative, and, in some cases, by a union attorney. That attorney could even be someone who witnessed a collision, a long time ago, from her swing, as a little girl.

Allen Drescher opened his law practice in Ashland in 1973. He served two years on the City Council before being elected municipal judge in 1978. He retired from the bench after 28 years. His law office is in downtown Ashland, a few blocks from where he started.