The Hermiston City Council heard impassioned testimony both for and against a recommendation to promote Acting Police Chief Jason Edmiston to the permanent position Monday night.

City leaders agreed to move ahead with plans to hire a consultant to perform an assessment of Edmiston and the department. City Manager Ed Brookshier will bring Greg Willeford of the Willeford Group in Salem to perform the $9,157 assessment.

Willeford, a retired Oregon State Police officer, will interview members of city government, including Brookshier, as well as from members of the police department and other city “stakeholders” before he produces a final report in June.

Councilors did not need to vote on the matter but heard testimony from residents and police officers, many of whom vouched for Edmiston.

Reserve police officer Robert Schaefer said he has known Edmiston since youth and expressed support of him in the role of police chief.

“I’ve not only seen him as (acting) chief of police, I’ve seen him growing up … and there’s not a better leader I’ve met in my life,” Schaefer said. “He has my support 100 percent and he has the support of the reserve officers as well.”

Resident Nancy Padilla expressed concern that the public was not given a chance to weigh in on who is appointed as the city’s next police chief.

“Why didn’t we get some choices?” Padilla said. “And I’m not saying anything against Acting Chief Edmiston at all … We should have had some kind of search, some kind of option, some kind of public input that us citizens could put in when we’re hiring a new police officer.”

Officer Erica Franz said there have been positive changes during her 10 years with the department, including under Edmiston as acting police chief.

“As much as I appreciate the (public) input, I’ve worked there,” Franz said. “I would challenge the people that don’t work there or have not worked there in a while, to talk to everybody on the police force because the majority of us are happy.”

Several councilors agreed with assessment process and voiced support for Edmiston.

Council president Jackie Myers called Edmiston a “hometown boy,” and said she had received many emails from constituents in the past couple of weeks in favor of Edmiston.

Councilor Joe Harn also approved of the process to fill the role police chief.

“To me this kind of process that we’re starting here gives him a greater chance of being a successful chief and a successful leader of men and women,” Harn said.

Brookshier initially recommended Edmiston to be “prospectively considered for the appointment of police chief” in a memorandum to the council on March 6.

He expressed confidence in Edmiston’s ability to fulfill the role of police chief.

“What I want to see is him be the center for growth for the department as it serves this community and I know he has that capability but we all need help in growing as leaders,” Brookshier said. “It’s not a journey that’s well taken without help from others.”

Edmiston called the comments at the meeting “humbling” and agreed that the assessment process to fulfill the position was necessary.

“That’s to take a look at, ‘What do I bring to the table and how does that fit with the department?’” Edmiston said. “I think it’s extremely arrogant if I came out and said, ‘I’ll make that decision’ … I was given two ears and one mouth on purpose. I should be listening twice as much as I talk.”

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