It’s a busy morning. You’re already running late, but you can’t stop thinking about how nice a cup of coffee sounds, so you hastily swing into a parking spot downtown and run into a coffee shop. Cup in hand, your mood is improving — until you see it. A little piece of paper stuck under your windshield wiper — a sight liable to make any car owner cuss. The woman behind this ticket, though, isn’t as mean as her job might imply. In fact, she’d rather not give you a ticket at all.
Cassaundra “Cassie” Heine, La Grande Police Department’s newest ordinance officer, just wants to talk to you. Though after a few warnings, she might still give you that ticket. A La Grande native, Heine has been involved in some facet of law enforcement since she was a teenager, volunteering at community events put on by the police department at age 16 and serving as a cadet from ages 18 to 21. After completing a year at Eastern Oregon University, Heine became a police dispatcher at 19, working in that sector of the department for the next six years. She also serves as a reserve officer for the department. This January, she briefly left LGPD to work at the Department of Human Services in La Grande.
“I’m glad I left and had that experience (with DHS),” Heine said. “I’ve always mostly been in something to do with law enforcement, but I wanted to at least go and experience something completely different to see if (law enforcement) was really what I wanted to do. (Working in law enforcement) is a big commitment.”
Her separation from the department didn’t last long.
“Sure enough, I came right back,” she said with a laugh. “I needed something more. I like to stay busy, patrol around and talk to people.”
For Heine, the ordinance position was a welcome change of scenery and scheduling, as well as an opportunity to rejoin a beloved line of work and a beloved group of coworkers.
“I really liked the idea, after being in dispatch for over six years, of being outside (and) just being a part of the family again,” Heine said of accepting the position. “In law enforcement, it’s just different. It’s hard to explain. But you kind of have that bond. We’re all just a big family, and I missed that when I left.”
Heine is still learning the ropes of her new position and worked with a trainer for a week and a half before patrolling solo.
“It’s really opened my eyes, and I’ve gotten to work with a lot of different people within the city in this position,” Heine said. “My (time as a reserve officer) has been very valuable to this position. Dispatch has also been very valuable. Thankfully I knew the radio lingo and everything else already. I knew the layout of the city, (and) I knew most of the people, so that was very helpful.”
She frequents the downtown area, a hotspot for timed parking zones, patrolling at least two to three times daily — once in the morning, again in the early to mid-afternoon and one more time in late afternoon. She’ll also cover school zones and EOU’s campus when school resumes.
Easily spotted on a three-wheeled marked car, which she jokingly refers to as the “lawnmower,” Heine spends most days combing the streets in search of more than just parking violations. Her duties stretch to include ordinance enforcement as well, such as nuisance violations, obstructions caused by overgrown trees and grass, and building code violations. From there, she either alerts the proper department to address the problem or conducts a “knock and talk” with individual citizens.
“What we prefer to do is try to make contact with the property owners, renters or whoever it may be,” Heine said of the process. “I give them a chance and unofficially say, ‘Look, this is something that needs to be remedied. How long do you think you need to do this?’ and I just check back. Usually that works, without any kind of official notice.”
Aside from her new duties, Heine also continues her work as a reserve police officer. After graduating from a six-month academy in Baker City in 2016, Heine began working toward her ultimate goal of becoming an officer with LGPD. Despite her driven nature, however, she’s in no hurry to rush the inevitable.
“The way I look at things right now is just one day at a time,” Heine said. “When the time is right, it’ll be right and I’ll know. I know I’m enjoying (my new position) right now, and I think I’ll enjoy it for at least a few years. But I’ll just take it as it comes.”
If you see Heine on the street, even if she’s giving you a ticket, “just come talk to me,” she said. “I’m really a nice person. Always keep smiling, that’s what I try to do.”