Does It Matter Who Is Sheriff? Leadership.

 

Some may wonder if it really matters who the Sheriff of Washington County is. The answer is “yes.” It matters a great deal for the safety of the community and also for the success of the organization. The Sheriff provides leadership and direction to our large organization – acting as a rudder and pointing the way forward. In addition to providing direction, the Sheriff leads as the ambassador of the Sheriff’s Office and Washington County law enforcement, representing the Office in the media, in civil cases, as well as to the public and other criminal justice partners. In order to be an effective leader and ambassador, a sheriff must have a strong reputation for integrity and a clear leadership philosophy.

At its core, my leadership philosophy is about serving those who serve our community. A servant leadership approach strives to provide the following:

  • Clear direction
  • Make people feel valued as professionals and individuals
  • Equip them for success through tools, training and empowerment
Facilitating Leadership Discussion With Supervisors, Nov 2019

To do this right requires I remain focused on these fundamentals, be accountable, receive regular feedback and mentoring, and balance the perspectives of different organizational levels. The most important leader traits include strength of character, being a good listener, showing respect for diverse people and roles in the organization, following-up, and being self-aware about the leader’s actions to use their authority for good related to ethics, power and organizational values. I very much enjoy teaching and facilitating servant leadership discussions at the Sheriff’s Office and at the Oregon State Sheriff’s Association. Doing so challenges me with ideas about how I, or we, can do better. This is exciting and reinforces that we can always improve ourselves and how we lead our teams.

I am fortunate that my earliest leadership training began while growing up, as my parents modeled what I understand today to be servant leadership. But my professional leadership training and experience started in the military, which I joined after graduating from college. I served as a Lieutenant Colonel in the U.S. Army Reserve, and my leadership education included the U.S. Army’s Officer Candidate School, Infantry Officer basic and advanced courses, the Combined Arms Staff Service School and the Command and General Staff College. My assignments included commanding Army Reserve detachments and companies, as well as leading battalion-level provincial reconstruction work while deployed to Iraq.

My leadership training outside the military includes earning a master’s degree in public administration, graduating from the FBI National Academy, and completing Harvard’s seminar for public sector leaders. My assignments at the Sheriff’s Office include every uniformed rank from first-line supervisor / sergeant, to lieutenant, commander, chief deputy, undersheriff, and sheriff.

This leadership training and experience is essential as the Sheriff’s Office provides the most diverse array of services of any local public safety agency I know. It takes comprehensive experiences across many different assignments to best prepare for the leadership duties of Sheriff of the third most populated county in Oregon. Our two primary uniformed divisions, patrol and jail, have entirely different state academies and different certifications. I have earned state certifications in both disciplines at the basic, intermediate, advanced, management, and executive levels, enabling me to lead both divisions effectively.

Teaching at annual Sheriff’s Institute

In addition, to lead a large organization like the Sheriff’s Office means developing relationships with a wide array of partners so we best work together. For over 30 years I have worked hard to strengthen partnerships with local, state and federal agency and community leaders. These relationships help support local programs like Washington County’s Mental Health Response Teams and the Hawthorne Walk-In Center for behavioral health and substance use disorder, as well as our work together with our federal partners like the U.S. Marshals Service to apprehend dangerous, wanted criminal fugitives. I also have solid working relationships with our judges, District Attorney’s Office, public defenders, the US Attorney’s Office and many other community and public safety organizations. My investments in leadership and relationships have been recognized by being named Sheriff of the Year by the Oregon State Sheriff’s Association for state-wide service and contributions to public safety. I have been honored to receive the Community Champion Award by Centro Cultural de Washington County, and a Friends of the Muslim Educational Trust award.

Leading at the Sheriff’s Office also means guiding a process to establish organizational goals and objectives that provide public value for our wonderful community and support the amazing people who serve at the Sheriff’s Office. It means cultivating a strong professional culture by the examples of integrity, servant-hood, and personal transparency and vulnerability. It means making hard decisions when necessary.

And while I benefited greatly from significant leadership training and experience over a 30(+) year career in the military and public safety, I believe that leadership requires continually learning and adapting. I enjoy putting leadership lessons from study and experience into practice. But mostly, I learn continuously from our well-trained, professional Sheriff’s Office leadership team and from my colleagues at other agencies and in the community. Taken together, it’s exciting and keeps me, as Sheriff, focused on ensuring our staff is well-led into the future and our county remains the safest major urban county in this state.

Pat

SRO’s; Working With Schools To Create An Environment Of Trust

 

Whether or not we have kids in school, I am certain we all believe safe schools are an important part of a safe community. As school recently got underway, I spent time with the School Resource Deputies/Officers (SRO’s) at Aloha and Westview High Schools to better understand their work, needs, and the schools’ overall safety strategy.  

In discussions with SRO’s, staff and students, it’s clear to me their strategy is underpinned by creating an environment of trust and open communication where concerns get addressed quickly. This environment is exactly what our SRO’s need to partner effectively to help keep schools safe. 

  

I was impressed by the amount of walking the deputies and their school colleagues log to be continually available, interested, and open to students. This prompted unending hallway discussions as students chatted with us about life inside and outside school, which I learned is important to understanding the many dynamics present in a school of about 1,600 students in one case, and approximately 2,700 in the other. I learned school safety is also about supporting students’ well-being and meeting their needs to include food and clothing in some cases, and doing everything possible so everyone feels connected in supportive ways. With help from valiant volunteers and donors, these schools go the extra mile to provide clothing, food and other assistance so that all students are best supported and ready to learn. Because students feel supported at school, they also help support and protect their school community. 

I was fortunate to participate in discussions with a class at each school, both full of very smart and engaged students. One class focused on law, and our conversation included careers in public safety, procedural justice, and several specific crime types and investigative procedures. Another class was about journalism, and we discussed how our public information officers and journalists work together to provide information about our work, the disagreements that develop from time to time between our two professions, and the benefit when we meet to address those disagreements and better understand each other’s needs. We also discussed the important and necessary role journalists perform in a successful, free society. In both classes I encouraged they continue pursuing their education, and then consider serving their community by joining the Sheriff’s Office Team! 

I am very thankful to SRO’s, school staff and students for working together to build a community at Aloha and Westview high schools, and for the terrific work SRO’s do at schools across Washington County to keep students and educators safe.  

Thank you, Aloha and Westview High Schools for letting me share in your communities for a day, and for supporting our SRO’s and school safety every day! 

Pat

Because You Asked – Jail Expansion vs. Training Center

 

“Because You Asked” blogs are in response to questions asked by you, the community I serve. Each volume addresses a question or group of questions. I’ve tried to keep the questions worded as asked, but occasionally have to reword them either to provide context or to combine similar questions. In any case, I’ve tried to retain the questioner(s)’ intent.

Questions: can the current jail be expanded to meet the projected and current needs for beds – or does the county need to open a second jail facility? If that is the case – how will you prevent a boondoggle like Multnomah County’s Wapato Jail that was never opened after being built? Your opponent has stated that it’s likely that the number of open jail beds is to be cut before the election. Your opponent has pointed out that in prior elections you identified a need to expand jail facilities – but that has not happened – has your opinion changed on that need? If not, what are you going to do if re-elected to make that happen? Your opponent has called into question the unfulfilled past campaign promise to expand the jail in light of the opening of a $20 million training facility. Is it wise to spend $20 million on a training facility if Washington County needs more jail beds to house prisoners, and how far would that $20 million have gone in expanding inmate housing?

I love these questions, in part because there’s good news on both fronts. And while the questions frame jail expansion and the Public Safety Training Center as a choice, it really isn’t. One does not preclude the other; we can have both. In answering the questions I hope to clarify why that is possible. And then I’ll get back to the good news.

Our current jail’s original design envisioned eventual expansion. This plan is forward-thinking because expansion is more cost-effective than building a new facility and will have less impact on staffing, as well as on our justice system partners. Even though expansion of the current facility is more cost-effective, it will still require substantial funding. It’s almost a certainty that funding will require a voter-approved general obligations bond.

Regarding whether jail beds will be cut, the truth is that they have already been temporarily cut due to scheduled jail maintenance. We are currently rotating a closed housing unit for an equipment upgrade and maintenance that can’t be performed with inmates present. But this maintenance project has clearly come at a good time, given our Jail’s reduced staffing levels due to a challenging recruitment environment (a challenge we share with other area agencies as well as businesses), training new staff, allowing for staff leave and training, supporting staff with Family/Medical leave, and recovery time for injury or illness on or off duty. Increasing staffing levels is also a priority, and one that is integral to any jail expansion planning process.

Jail expansion was a priority for me when I took office in 2011 and remains so now. But two things are required to make that priority a reality – a significant shortage of jail capacity AND a plan that accounts for other justice system components that comprise the public safety system – the District Attorney’s Office, the courts, defense attorneys, Community Corrections, and the Juvenile Department.

Jail Capacity. When I became Sheriff in 2011 we had only two overcrowding releases that entire year, and only one in 2012. That was in contrast to the extreme overcrowding releases seen in the early 2000s (thousands per year). But rapid population growth suggested to me that overcrowding releases would soon return to high levels, which is why expansion was a priority for me. However, those increases did not materialize. In 2013, overcrowding releases grew to about 670 releases per year before dropping to approximately 240 per year in 2014 and 2015. So, one of the basic components necessary for jail expansion, a significant shortage of jail capacity, was not present. Then, last year overcrowding releases surged significantly to 1,861 which is a rate, in my view, that signals it’s time to plan for expansion.

Justice System Components. A significant part of a Sheriff’s job is to work with the leaders of our justice system components to understand the system impacts of a new law enforcement challenge, or a change such as a jail expansion. As the case for jail expansion recently grew stronger, convincing evidence also developed to increase capacity of other justice system components. That makes sense because rapid, sustained growth eventually impacts multiple areas. Working closely with county and justice system leaders, we agree it’s time for a justice system master planning process, which is slated to begin in 2020. The goal of this process is to analyze, plan, design, and expand capacity where appropriate so that our justice system meets our growing community’s needs well into the future. Such a process takes years to complete and was used to plan our current Jail and Community Corrections Center. It will work again because it leads to informed decisions to align our system in a manner that’s not only integrated, but also provides a balanced and effective justice system, which I believe is important to voters.

The main element required for jail expansion was not present after I became Sheriff; capacity was not significantly short after all. So, we increased our focus on providing a place for excellent training.

        (Training Center)

Public Safety Training Center. The new training center meets our training needs into the future as far as we can envision. It’s one of the best investments we can make in our staff, officer safety, professionalism, and customer service. Planning for the training center began in 2015, construction started in early 2018, and we held its ribbon-cutting ceremony in July of this year.

                       (Jail)

Designed by trainers, it’s a top-tier place to train across a wide range of skills at one location, tailored for enforcement and jail professionals. The training center matches the excellent caliber of our trainers and supports safe driving, defensive tactics, de-escalation, classroom instruction, range operations, interagency response, and decision-making in dynamic, changing situations. It provides our professionals the best learning value to achieve safe outcomes for themselves and the community. Excellent training requires an excellent place to train and is a pillar of a professional, reliable law enforcement agency. It helps build community confidence and trust.

And now for the good news on both jail capacity expansion and the training center:

As I alluded to previously, we will begin the planning process for jail expansion in 2020. Both necessary elements exist – a significant shortage of jail capacity and agreement among justice system leaders that the time to plan for system-wide innovations has arrived. We are working together to create that balanced and effective justice system that our community needs today and well into the future.

Also, the training center has been open for several months now, and I could not be more pleased with the training it enables. The work of our professionals can be very dangerous, and the training center increases the probability they will go home safe at the end of their shift. Feedback from recruiting and new staff shows our reputation for excellent training helps attract applicants. As we continue bolstering recruiting efforts, the training center will only improve that appeal, while remaining faithful to our commitment to support our professionals and community.

I look forward to working with leaders from our justice system and community to ensure our justice system components have enough capacity and are balanced far into the future, in a manner truly reflective of our community. We can do that and still remain focused on excellent training to keep our professionals safe and best serve our community.

Pat