After a confrontation with a knife-weilding teenager in Ashland, Oregon failed to result in a citizen shooting, a group of disgruntled police officers in the small department began complaining that the teenager should have been "drilled," but that because of Police Chief Mike Bianca's policies, they were unable to shoot the apparently intoxicated boy. In a reversal of the usual scenario, the townspeople of Ashland have rallied around their Chief of Police, who was an Ashland Police officer for years before getting the top-cop spot in the postcard-perfect town famous for its Shakespeare festival and low crime rate.
Usually, cops rally behind a beleaguered Chief of Police when citizens come calling for his head. In the town of Ashland, Oregon, known for its Shakespeare Festival, park-like atmosphere and low crime rate, a different type of drama is unfolding.
Last month, Chief Mike Bianca, who was appointed Chief last year after years as a patrol officer on the Ashland Police Department, found himself accused by his own officers of being too soft, and limiting their use of deadly force to the point where it endangered officer safety. After the confrontation was defused, Ashland Patrol Officer Teresa Selby, a diminutive blonde, commented to the local press that, but for the nearby presence of bystanders, she would have "drilled him."
Selby's comments, and those of two other Ashland police officers who claimed Chief Bianca's tactics put them in danger, struck a nerve in this sedate town, where the streets are lined with souvenir, bead and jewelry shops, and average incomes and home values far exceed the Oregon norm. Last week, a rally in support of Chief Bianca drew hundreds, and today, the Mayor of Ashland came out in the Chief's favor.
Local sources say that the complaining officers are now thinking better of their actions. "They started something and now they can't finish it. They'll be lucky to get out with their jobs." said a local political observer who preferred to remain anonymous.
Meanwhile, Ashland activists supporting Chief Bianca have announced another rally for July 29th at 3 p.m. at the entrance to Lithia Park, promising to march to City Hall and the police station on a campaign to "Clean up the Ashland Police Department." The activists, adopting an appropriately theatrical touch for a town full of actors and artists, plan to march with brooms and other cleaning implements, are circulating flyers throughout the little town and anticipate a large turnout.
Despite the humorous approach, at least some Bianca supporters say they're deadly serious about removing the cops who mounted the mutiny. Charles Carreon, a former Deputy District Attorney in Jackson County who worked with the Ashland Police Department during his years as a prosecutor, supports Bianca and is helping to organize the march. When asked why he planned to march, he stated: "Mike is the best Police Chief this City ever had. He understands his community and they appreciate him. It looks like these other cops chose the wrong guy to pick on."