By Conrad Dudderar
Despite negative attention toward police in some parts of the country, Yukon Police are seeing strong support from their community and local leaders.
There have been heightened tensions — along with calls for police reform and “defunding” police — after widespread publicity about officer-involved shootings and deadly interactions in other U.S. cities.
The recent conviction of Minnesota police officer Derek Chauvin in George Floyd’s death brought the issue to the forefront.
Morale at the Yukon Police Department remains high although officers have become even more cautious and aware when responding to calls, Yukon’s police chief noted.
“We’re extremely blessed to be in a community that has always supported us,” Yukon Police Chief John Corn said. “It’s what makes the difference for us. We will not be able to escape or alter what decisions come through the courts or what legislation is introduced and passed politically.
“What we can do is continue to foster and maintain the relationship and transparency with the citizens, the city council and the city manager’s office. All have been so supportive in any venture the department has wanted to undertake.”
A 1984 Yukon High School graduate, Corn joined the YPD 32 years ago and has been police chief since 2012. He believes only a small segment of the citizenry opposes police.
“People who have resentment toward law enforcement, for whatever reason, have seen enough national news and different views from political sources or individuals, that they don’t support police,” Corn said. “But it’s not just us, they don’t support any law enforcement.
“They may even be more toward the total ‘anti-government’ position.”
People living and working in Yukon generally feel safe because officers do a “very good job” at policing and investigators protect victims’ rights, the chief added.
“We do a lot to maintain that integrity and we try to ensure everybody does feel that way,” Corn explained. “That Yukon is a safe place to be.
“The people who feel the safest in this town are the ones that will give their last dollar to help us if we were in need of the money.”
One example of Yukon’s public support came several years ago when the YPD wanted to purchase protective vests after five Dallas officers were shot.
The Yukon Rotary Club, churches and several individuals stepped up to pay for first responders’ new body armor.
“We not only raised enough money to buy every officer one,” Corn noted, “we had enough to put heavy plate carriers on every fire truck.”
The Yukon Police Department of observing National Police Week by hosting the weekly Yukon Community Coffee at 8 a.m. Friday, May 14 at the police station, 100 S Ranchwood.
OFFICER RECRUITMENT, RETENTION
Large urban-area police departments in major cities, like Seattle and New York City, have each lost hundreds of officers to mass resignations and retirements.
“Do I have officers who are looking to retire or leave the profession? No,” Corn said, matter-of-factly.
The YPD has many senior-tenured officers who have families and are involved in their community.
“We haven’t and a great deal of people leave the department in the last 10-15 years,” Corn shared. “As peace officers, they now have a stake in their community – where they’re coaching T-ball, they’re coaching basketball, they’re teaching swim lessons.
“The national spotlight is on terms like ‘defund the police’, ‘police reform’ and ‘criminal justice reform’. These things are mentioned and spoken about in the political arena. They don’t mean the same in that arena as they do in ours.”
Is the anti-police movement in some parts of the U.S. impacting officer recruitment in departments like Yukon?
After attending a recent meeting of Canadian County police chiefs, Corn responded with a resounding “no.”
“Every agency that’s been hiring has had great numbers of applications,” he shared. “Union City had 28 applicants for one position.
“It makes me think the rhetoric that ‘nobody wants to be a police officer’ and ‘nobody wants to choose that career’, that’s not what’s happening – at least not here.”
While police officers are well trained, having all this training does not solve every problem.
“Now we continue to provide more training,” Corn said. “But it doesn’t make you immune, it doesn’t take away the human interaction and what can happen when you have ‘one transmitter, one receiver’.”
Read more from Chief Corn in an upcoming edition of The Yukon Progress