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Guest Column: We can choose to bring positive change

In my 30-plus years of law enforcement history, I have never seen anything like the recent events that we as a nation have had to endure. There are few, if any, of us that have not been affected in some way by the horrific active shooter incidents, to the natural disasters, that include record breaking hurricanes and wildland fires this past year.

Now what? Do we choose to be negative and dwell on the bad things that are happening, or choose to be positive and begin doing small things in our own communities to make positive changes? Of course, I’m not suggesting we put our heads in the sand and ignore the big issues. I am suggesting we put our heads together and begin addressing our local problems.

Our country has never been so divided in the political arena. I experienced the political divide first-hand at the state level during my time working with legislators in Salem. I’ve always said that I can’t fix other people, but I can fix “me” and believe that carries over to fixing our own communities.

We all need to be part of the solution by getting more involved. That starts by simply looking out for your neighbors. Do you even know your neighbor’s name? Do you know their children’s names?

My point is if we don’t know our neighbors, how do we stop possible “bad actors” from acting out? It’s so disheartening to hear that most, if not all, previous “active shooters” were displaying indicators that were either missed or ignored.

Since the Las Vegas shooting, I’ve had several local citizens come talk to me about relatives, friends, and acquaintances they had concerns about. Every person that was reported was from other jurisdictions. In most cases the information is vetted and sometimes law enforcement may contact the person, but sometimes it may be more appropriate for a mental health agency to contact the person.

Getting to know your neighbors is the first positive step. I attended a local Neighborhood Watch barbeque and was so encouraged to see neighbors come together socially. They all knew each other and I believe live in one of the safest neighborhoods in the city because they are truly looking out for each other.

The group presented me a t-shirt that said “see something, say something” because we talk about it at almost every Neighborhood Watch meeting. So please, get on board, get to know your neighbors, and if you’re afraid of them, maybe that’s another conversation you need to have with one of my officers.

“Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it's the only thing that ever has.” — Margaret Mead

Patrick Ashmore is retired from the Oregon State Police and now serves as chief of The Dalles Police Department.


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