Because You Asked: How to Attract Candidates

 

Question: How will you set the county apart from other surrounding agencies to allow you to attract and hire the best possible candidates to become deputies?

       New deputies taking oath of office.

This is a good question, and an issue that is always on my mind. I recently attended a Westside Economic Alliance question and answer forum and spoke to them about recruiting and retention. The complexities and importance of hiring the best candidates are well understood by both the public and private sectors.

The first and most important discriminating factor for the Washington County Sheriff’s Office is its reputation as an agency of integrity with strong community support and partnerships. The way our professionals work daily to reflect the S.O. core values of “Do your best; Do the right thing; and Treat others the way you want to be treated” is the best recruiting tool we can have. This professional integrity helps us develop community relationships that greatly enrich our work.

     Newest canine recruit.

Other internal areas in which WCSO sets itself apart are its availability of special team assignments we can offer, as well as its top-tier training facility.

While every deputy is skilled across a wide spectrum of skills and abilities, special teams opportunities enhance recruiting because of the opportunity for new deputies to eventually focus their craft in particular areas of interest, like becoming a member of teams to include the canine team, crash/accident reconstruction team, crisis negotiations team, jail/corrections emergency response team, tactical team (SWAT), security threat group (jail gangs), narcotics task force, major crimes team, domestic violence response team, traffic enforcement team and more. Most of these teams are interagency; team member work closely with professionals from partner agencies which enhances overall learning and professional growth.

    Marine patrol on Hagg Lake.

In addition to special team assignments, our state-of-the-art training facility boosts our ability to recruit the best applicants. The excellence of our Public Safety Training Center conveys our commitment to professionalism and safety and is only available in Washington County. Prospective deputy candidates have told us that they haven’t seen a comparable training venue at other agencies or such a commitment to excellence in public safety training.

And finally, I have the utmost confidence in the quality of our Sheriff’s Office recruiting team. A mix of full-time professionals and those on a collateral (additional duty) basis, they are intelligent, motivated, innovative, a mix of uniform and non-uniform staff, and diverse. A sergeant from the Jail is in charge of this important program. His jail expertise provides applicants an excellent understanding for the engaging, team-oriented, challenging work of a jail professional. Our only full-time recruiter from patrol is a deputy who started in the jail. She took a special team position on the honor guard, then transferred to patrol, and now recruiting. Another recruiter (part-time) immigrated from Mexico when he was young, and his compelling story helps us engage in a meaningful way with Hispanic/Latino community members
and other communities of color candidates.

Recruiting visit at Linfield College’s MENTE Summit.

Our recruiting team is pursuing qualified candidates from around the region, working with those transitioning off active military duty, as well as establishing relationships with colleges’ and universities’ criminal justice programs up and down the west coast. Our recruiting team is eager to innovate with the latest cost-effective technologies that they can apply to recruiting. In spite of the state and national low unemployment rates, we recruited more deputies in 2019 than in 2018, which was more than in 2017. We continue to innovate and make headway, and I look forward to seeing their results into the future!

JoinWCSO.com

I am fully aware of the recruiting and hiring challenges in our current competitive job market, and the critical importance to increase our ranks. That’s why we are laser-focused on recruiting and devoting our best to this effort so that we can recruit the best. If you are interested to do the most important engaging, work for your community and be part of an effective team (or know someone who is interested), start here today!

 

Pat

A Snapshot of Washington County Community Safety

Recently, I joined several colleagues at the Westside Economic Alliance (WEA) on a panel about “Building Safe, Strong and Thriving Communities.” Our discussion focused on community safety.

Judge Oscar Garcia, Sheriff Pat Garrett, Tigard Police Chief Kathy McAlpine, District Attorney Kevin Barton, Tualatin Valley Fire and Rescue Chief Deric Weiss
Judge Oscar Garcia, Sheriff Pat Garrett, Tigard Police Chief Kathy McAlpine, District Attorney Kevin Barton, Tualatin Valley Fire and Rescue Chief Deric Weiss

In addition to expressing our gratitude for the honor to serve our community and our appreciation for the hard-working professionals we represent, we discussed how although we live in a safe county, its growth presents challenges requiring our continued focus on collaboration and partnerships to keep our community safe.

Bottom line: we live in a safe community. But statistics indicate a recent rise in crime rates, both violent and property. And while they are still well below both the national and state crime rates, we must reinforce our collaboration and partnerships, as well as hiring, training, and equipping our professionals in order to remain the state’s safest major urban county.

Below is a county-wide “snapshot” about safety that provides some context to safety statistics (and context is always important when dealing with statistics). It compares crime rates in Washington County to the other most populated counties in Oregon. You can see that Washington County’s crime rate (combined violent and property crimes) has consistently trended below the other high-population counties in Oregon.

A comparison of combined property and violent crime rates in Washington County and other urban counties since 2011. (See shaded box below for additional information on crime rate reporting systems.)
A comparison of combined property and violent crime rates in Washington County and other urban counties since 2011. (See shaded box below for additional information on crime rate reporting systems.)

Cities in Washington County are frequently recognized for being safe. In 2019, six of the 20 safest cities in Oregon were in Washington County. But communities outside cities (unincorporated Washington County) are also safe. Even with the previously mentioned rise in both property and violent crime rates, as these charts show, Washington County’s unincorporated crime rates are still well below state and national averages.

Property crime rates in unincorporated Washington County are up 14% since 2016, but still well below Oregon and U.S. property crime rates.
Property crime rates in unincorporated Washington County are up 14% since 2016, but still well below Oregon and U.S. property crime rates.
Unincorporated Washington County violent crimes rates have risen 49% since 2016, but again remain low when compared to both the state and U.S.
Unincorporated Washington County violent crimes rates have risen 49% since 2016, but again remain low when compared to both the state and U.S.

If you’re interested in trends rather than comparisons, the following charts are interesting. The straight line is the trend line.

In unincorporated Washington County, property crimes declined steadily  from 2011 to 2016, then rose in 2017, although they remained below our  2014 levels. The overall trend is downward.
In unincorporated Washington County, property crimes declined steadily from 2011 to 2016, then rose in 2017, although they remained below our 2014 levels. The overall trend is downward.

From 2011 to 2016, outside cities, the violent crime rate rose and fell at a nearly even rate, then increased 45% from 2016 to 2018. The overall trend rate is upward.
From 2011 to 2016, outside cities, the violent crime rate rose and fell at a nearly even rate, then increased 45% from 2016 to 2018. The overall trend rate is upward.
[Of note, in 2015, Oregon law enforcement agencies began transitioning from reporting crime data in “Uniform Crime Reports” (UCR) to the “National Incident Based Reporting System” (NIBRS). The two systems measure crime differently, so 2016 marks a statistical ‘break’ when using both systems. For long-term trending, UCR reporting continues. While pertaining to Washington State, a good summary of the difference between UCR and NIBRS is here for those wanting to take a deeper dive into the statistics. And you can access these statistics yourself here. They’re also available on the WCSO website. Neither site plays well with Explorer.]

At the WEA, I and my colleagues also discussed several indicators that show that the overall workload of our public safety and justice professionals is increasing. These indicators include:

  • As referred to above, the recent rise in crime rates, which is consistent with prolonged, rapid urban area population growth
  • A 6% climb in jail booking rates from 2017 (47 per day) to 2018 (50 per day) – this equates to about 1,095 more annual bookings which translate to more demands on the Jail, more investigations for deputies, officers and detectives to resolve, more cases for the DA’s Office, more stresses on an already full court docket, and a higher probation officer case load.
  • Increased calls for service – annual Sheriff’s Office public calls for service rose 8% from 2015 to 2019 (4,167 more calls/year) while total county population grew about 7.5% (42,900) during the same time period, according to the county figures drawn from Portland State University’s Population Research Center.
  • More reports to the Sheriff’s Office of suspected child abuse – these increased 34% from 2015 to 2019 (from 1,904 in 2015 to 2,556 in 2019)
  • More frequent mental health-related calls for service – Police Chief McAlpine and I agree our law enforcement professionals are responding to more calls involving mentally ill persons. These calls require more time to resolve and/or connect the individual with needed services.
  • More offenders being sentenced to local jails and probation, and fewer people are sentenced to prison due to Oregon legislative action in recent years.

While we live in a safe community, our cities and county continue to grow at a fast pace – about 10,000 new county residents each year. To address this growth and the workload challenges it brings, I ask you to join me in supporting the county’s public safety local option levy you will see on your May ballot. Levy funded services have existed for 20 years and provide key support to critical public safety and justice services that protect victims and survivors, hold offenders accountable, provide supervision as offenders transition back to the community, and provide those in mental health crisis with resources rather than being taken to jail. Levy funding is an important part of keeping our community safe.

Discussing public safety issues with other panelists reinforced the truism that partnerships get results in public safety. We are fortunate in Washington County that our agencies and departments prioritize being collaborative which helps us adapt to the needs of a growing, changing county. Law enforcement agencies, the jail, fire and emergency medical agencies, prosecutors, probation officers, and our many community partners understand we cannot do our best work alone, but only in partnerships do all boats rise.

Thank you for your support of all our public safety professionals!

Pat

Difficult Decisions, Misinformation, and Following The Law

 

Recently, some false and inflammatory information has been shared regarding my decision to honor two administrative subpoenas issued by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS). I cannot stand by and let this false narrative risk damaging community relationships, and I prepared this response to provide accurate, factual information about my decision.

First, some background information in case you’re not familiar.

Two weeks ago, DHS issued me two immigration enforcement subpoenas to produce records related to two individuals in custody of the Washington County Jail. While we issued a clear media release about the reasons for my decision to comply with the subpoenas, that decision has been mischaracterized by a few in a way that seems designed to instill fear and discord in our community.

The DHS subpoenas commanded identifying information on two individuals in our custody:

  1. A registered sex offender who completed a prison sentence for Sex Abuse in the First Degree and now faces additional charges of Displaying Child In Sexual Conduct, Sexual Abuse in the First Degree, and Sodomy in the First Degree.
  2. An individual serving a sentence for Driving Under the Influence of Intoxicants (DUII) and faces charges for another DUII, Reckless Driving and Probation Violation.

While the information commanded by these subpoenas is freely available as a public record for any other purpose, Oregon law (ORS 180.805) specifically prohibits public agencies from sharing this information for the purpose of enforcement of federal immigration laws. That statute does allow disclosure for the purpose of enforcing federal immigration law when required by state or federal law. After consulting with counsel, I determined that responding to these subpoenas was indeed required by federal law due to the following factors:

  • These subpoenas were signed by Portland ICE Assistant Field Office Director, who is an official who has federal statutory authority to issue them under 8 USC 1225 (d)(4)(A). The fact these subpoenas were not signed by a judge has no bearing on their validity. Subpoenas are rarely signed by a judge and are almost always signed by an attorney or high-ranking government official. (For instance, if my neighbor were subpoenaed to appear as a witness in court, that subpoena would most likely be signed by an attorney assigned to the case.)
  • In 2017 the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals upheld similar federal administrative subpoenas for pharmacy records and found that the federal administrative subpoena statute preempted Oregon law that required a warrant for the records. See Oregon Prescription Drug Monitoring Program and ACLU v. US Drug Enforcement Agency (9th Circuit June 2017).
  • The only other legal option available would be to file a motion to quash the subpoenas. I have been advised that no good-faith legal basis exists to file such a motion, and attorneys are required by the Oregon State Bar’s rules on professional conduct to have a good faith basis to file all motions.
  • Federal statute specifically provides that if a person neglects or refuses to respond to one of these subpoenas, they may be federally charged with contempt of court (8 USC 1225 (d)(4)(B)).
  • The US Attorney for Oregon said clearly that he was willing to move forward with contempt proceedings if necessary.

Considering the fact that clear federal law authorizes these federal administrative subpoenas, that similar administrative subpoenas have been upheld by the courts, that we are legally obligated to provide the information when required by federal law, the lack of good-faith legal reasons to try and quash these subpoenas, and the very real threat of a federal contempt charge, I decided to comply with the subpoenas.

It’s been alleged these subpoenas are exactly the same as an ICE detainer request which has no force of law. That claim is completely inaccurate.

In complete contrast to an ICE detainer which several federal courts have described as simply a “request”, the DHS subpoenas for identifying information are fully authorized by federal law (8 USC 1225(d), and the Code of Federal Regulations, 8 CFR 287.4), and failure to comply is punishable by a federal contempt charge. The laws authorizing administrative subpoenas have been in effect for nearly 100 years and have been upheld by the US Supreme Court (US v. Minker, 76 S Ct 281 (1955)), and the 9th Circuit Court found that these administrative subpoenas preempt differing Oregon law.

The decision I made to comply with these subpoenas pains me because of the negative impact it could have on the trust-relationship I, my colleagues, and immigrant community civic leaders have worked hard to build over a period of decades. In 2014 I was the first Sheriff in Oregon to stop holding people for ICE following the federal court ruling that doing so is a Constitutional violation (Miranda-Olivares v. Clackamas County). In 2018 I publicly opposed Ballot Measure 105 which would have done away with Oregon’s law that basically prevents local law enforcement from using resources to detect or apprehend someone whose only violation is federal immigration law. That same year the Presiding Judge and I wrote a letter to the Portland ICE Director requesting they not take enforcement action in our courthouse. I believe these positions were the right thing to do because ICE activities can have a chilling effect on our justice system and because I care about our immigrant community, but they also helped make Washington County a target of federal authorities.

You can disagree with my decision. You can say you would make a different decision if in my place. You can argue that I should have been willing to face a federal contempt action to protect two people from ICE who are a clear public safety risk, one of whom is currently charged with sexually victimizing several children. But you cannot disregard the complex facts and legal issues listed above, as well as pressing public safety concerns that create a serious dilemma for law enforcement agencies. While the decision was difficult, I made my decision because I believe it is the right legal response, and the right response for the public safety of our entire community. I have confidence as we continue our best efforts to serve everyone in our community, regardless of their origin or status, the longstanding bond between the Sheriff’s Office and immigrant communities will survive and grow and we work hard and invest in our relationship. I will continue to do my best to follow the law, do the right thing for public safety, while supporting all our community members.

Pat