PAYETTE - Since taking over for Mark Clark in April 2019, Payette Police Chief John Plaza has worked to expand the department’s evidence room, update the task force office, buy two new computers for police headquarters, give patrol new radios and give police officers new load-bearing vest carriers. For 2020, he has set out to continue investing.

Plaza took time out of his day on Feb. 7 to share his goals with the Independent-Enterprise:

Drug task force

Plaza shared that he plans to continue staffing and equipping the county’s drug task force, and has said support for his efforts has been plentiful.

“We have created a Payette County Task force, that can be used for any types of investigations, but to focus on drug crimes at this time,” said Plaza. “Fruitland PD and Payette County are also part of this [task force] with the outstanding support from the Idaho State police.  We are very fortunate that our city council supports this position in our department it is an asset to our community and an unfortunate necessity also.”

School resource officer

Continuing to offer a school resource officer to Payette schools has also been a high priority for Plaza.

“This position has been important for interactions with the schools and I am told the school district is appreciating the help Sgt. Coen provides daily to all schools in Payette City.”

Critical response

Plaza said he is working to keep staffing and equipping the Payette County Critical Response Team, providing officers for multi-jurisdictional critical incident response throughout Payette County.

“We continue to train and equip the officers and team to stay operational,” he says. “It takes a lot of time and dedication to keep the team functioning and the officers and deputies on it are dedicated to making it work.

Modernization

Plaza said the Department tries to update its police vehicle fleet by replacing one vehicle per year.

“We have started purchasing used, leased vehicles that are already equipped for patrol use,” according to Plaza. “This year we replaced the SRO vehicle with a used Ford Explorer and the program has worked very well so far.”

Communications

Since Aug. 2019, Plaza said he has been planning to purchase new radios in the 700 mhz range, aiming to increase range and reliability over the city’s existing system. This plan started at the last 911 Operations Board meeting in Aug.

“This goal is planned for five years in the future, but we are starting the planning/budgeting now.”

Downtown cameras?

Plaza also expressed that he would like to find funds for a surveillance system for downtown Payette, in an effort to deter criminals and solve crimes. With facial recognition recently implemented in Ontario, Plaza said he isn’t ruling out the technology yet.

“I have just started talking to a local vendor for the cameras. I would want to know if it could integrate facial recognition later, or if we would be better off cost-wise with a camera system that could get reliable images to identify activities/people for investigations.”

Plaza said the cameras have been something he has pushed for “for a couple of years.”

‘Very fortunate’

When asked about his time working with his predecessor, Mark Clark, Plaza cites how Clark helped set him up for success.

“I was very fortunate to have worked with Mark and learned a great deal from him. He was a great chief and set our department on a path to success,” Plaza says. “I hope to build on that and continue to modernize our department to help serve the citizens of Payette even better.”

Plaza also cites those he works with each day as a source of strength for himself and the city.

“I am also very fortunate to have great officers and staff to work with which makes my job easier. The continued support of our City Council has helped me accomplish some of our goals quicker.”

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