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Because You Asked – Listening and Climate

 

“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 – How much time do you currently devote to talking with your deputies, sergeants, lieutenants and commanders, and do you ever partner with any of them on a shift to keep a street-level connection to both the deputies serving under you, and the residents you serve? How do you feel the current climate is among deputies and senior enforcement and corrections personnel – is it healthy, or is it in need of change?

I remember what it was like to be a deputy and have my sergeant ask for my opinion, provide me relevant feedback, and offer suggestions. I felt I was a valued part of the team and that our shared mission mattered. It instilled in me a desire to seek feedback, accept criticism, and innovate. As a leader, I want to inspire that in every single Sheriff’s Office member. I need all the shared voices and innovation. So I listen.

In the first 100 days after I became Sheriff in 2011, I met with 100 Sheriff’s Office professionals to get an overall sense of their attitude, satisfaction, and confidence about their work. I asked them what was working, suggestions for change, and any other topic they chose. Responses about what worked well included teamwork, professionalism, community support, their valuable mission, and staff comradery. Suggestions for change included more 10-hour shifts, authorization to wear load-bearing vests instead of carrying all tools on a belt, more office-wide communication, shortening the hiring process, and providing driver’s training for Jail deputies. Changes we’ve been able to implement based on staff suggestions include:

  • authorizing load-bearing vests
  • a shortened hiring process that better addresses today’s hiring landscape
  • adding drivers training for Jail deputies (made possible by this year’s Training Center opening)

Then in 2016 I met with 50 individuals in 50 days to again hear their views on important topics. Generally, I heard appreciation for the changes they had seen as a result of earlier conversations and compliments for senior leaders being increasingly visible at briefings and staff meetings. I also heard concerns about overtime rates, suggestions for more supervisor training, the need for a dedicated place to train, and requests to relax some parts of the grooming policy. Changes to address some of those concerns have been:

  • Addition of Jail positions – 19 permanent and 20 temporary
  • More training and development opportunities for leaders
  • A dedicated, world class training facility
  • Updated grooming and appearance policy, relevant for today’s workforce while remaining professional

While formalized individual discussions are helpful, our leadership team and I decided the best way to map our organization’s future in a way that not only serves our community, but also includes our staff’s valuable perspectives, was to conduct an employee survey. In 2017 we developed an anonymous office-wide survey to get feedback from everyone who was interested to provide it. The survey asked questions related to job satisfaction, work environment, supervision, promotion, training, and communication. From the survey results we implemented improvements to include:

  • Restructuring the promotion process, using outside experts and best-practices
  • Implementing desired shift changes in Patrol and Investigations
  • Replacing a legacy evaluation system with one better suited for mentoring and coaching
  • Renewed focus on division-level and office-wide communication

I believe that informal connections are equally vital. Almost every day, to varying degrees, I have discussions with individuals and get feedback from staff, whether they are brand new, or long-tenured professionals. These discussions happen in hallways, the locker room, shift briefings, staff meetings, when someone stops by my office, or when I check in with individuals. Frequently these discussions begin with a story of a ‘win’ or a challenging experience. Other common themes during these conversations include being part of an important mission and effective team, their teammates and supervisor(s), surges in workload and overtime, the availability of time off, and even issues outside of work.

I also get good feedback when I spend time on the job with our Jail or Patrol deputies, whether it’s a few hours or an entire shift. Depending on my schedule, this happens at intervals from every few weeks to several months. Doing so provides me invaluable insight into our Sheriff’s Office staff’s challenges, their talents and professionalism. It also provides me an opportunity to connect with the residents I serve in a different way than in my daily interactions with community groups, agencies, committees, and organizations. I come away reminded of the honor it is to serve both our capable staff and wonderful community.

While these practices and changes have produced positive feedback, work to connect with our professionals and foster the best work environment possible never stops. We continue to work toward other improvements that are more challenging, like desired shift changes and more staff in the Jail Division, which is our most pressing challenge. But throughout my time as Sheriff, the vast majority of our staff’s enthusiasm for the mission, our work, the team, and their positive impact on the community is clear and strong, which has an overall positive impact on our climate.

And so I will continue to listen, learn, and respond.

Pat

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

Leadership In Law Enforcement Technology – Responsible Use of Facial Recognition

 

Using technology to make us safer is smart. Pioneering the responsible use of that technology makes us a leader.

At the Sheriff’s Office we use technology to make our communities safer every day. We developed technology that provides timely arrest warrant information and other crime-related data to law enforcement officers at agencies across the county, helps detectives and Patrol deputies solve crime, and enables the display of important information in key areas in Jail and Records. It allows Jail deputies to log rounds in real time and in a manner which increases safety. Body camera technology improves evidence gathering, enhances safety, and increases transparency. We have been a leader in GPS-tracking technology to catch thieves who steal packages, cars, bicycles and more. We are also leaders in the responsible use of facial recognition technology.

It’s been stated that our Office was the first law enforcement agency to use facial recognition technology. This is not accurate. The truth is that the Sheriff’s Office did not use facial recognition until October 2017 when it was made available to investigators. A year earlier, in October 2016 the Georgetown Center on Privacy and Technology published an article citing 25 police agencies that used the technology, pre-dating our use. But while we were not one of the first agencies to use the technology, we do lead in developing model policy and responsible use of the technology to solve criminal cases.

So how did we become a leader in the responsible use of facial recognition technology?

As businesses and individuals increasingly used video technology and smart phones to capture suspects’ images, law enforcement had a corresponding opportunity and obligation to identify the unknown suspects caught on camera. Historically, this process was time-intensive and inefficient. An investigator would often create a bulletin and distribute it throughout their agency. Depending on the era, they would send it by fax or email to surrounding law enforcement agencies and jail staff as well, in hopes that someone might recognize the suspect.

In the mid-2000s, the Sheriff’s Office launched a “Can-You-ID Me?” page that allowed the public to view photos of suspects engaging in criminal activity and submit possible tips. The page proved to be a valuable tool to solve cases, and many law enforcement agencies followed suit. .

Fast forward to 2016, when personnel with the Sheriff’s Office Information Technology (IT) workgroup learned of a technology product announced by Amazon Web Services. The IT workgroup saw an opportunity to apply portions of this technology to assist in accomplishing the same mission as the “Can-You-ID Me?” page. Knowing the need to more quickly and efficiently identify criminal suspects, our IT developed a method to compare unidentified criminal suspects’ faces to Washington County booking photos. This quickly proved to be successful in assisting them in identifying suspects caught on camera.

We also understand that new technologies can raise new concerns for the public – which we share – including its appropriate and responsible use and potential for privacy violations.

We have worked hard to establish the policy (linked above) that guides our responsible use of facial recognition technology. Along the way we’ve consulted and collaborated with law-makers (Sen. Wyden’s staff) and local stakeholders for feedback that we’ve used to improve our policy and protocols.

Notably, our policy is clear that a facial recognition search alone is not probable cause to arrest or seize any person. Results of using the technology are only potential leads that require follow-up investigation, such as verification of the person’s true identity and evaluation of other information and facts. Sometimes such corroboration gets achieved through public social media sites (for example, the suspect’s clothing on social media matches what they wore during the crime).

Other important points:

  • We do not use the technology for mass surveillance. Policy specifically prohibits such use.
  • We only compare criminal suspect photos with Jail booking photos dating back to 2001, which are public record.
  • Criminal suspect photos not resulting in a criminal case are purged after one year. This timeline is consistent with Oregon retention requirements and ensures all data is available for our annual audit of this technology’s use.
  • All data collected is kept secure and only retained locally on Sheriff’s Office servers. No photos or videos are ever sent to the servers of private companies. Neither are they ever sent to law enforcement agencies based outside of Washington County.

In addition, we have been very transparent about this program. We’ve invited local television stations and a law enforcement technology publication to cover it. Between Facebook and Twitter accounts alone, stories on our use of facial recognition technology were seen 25,000 times. This does not include TV or web viewership of local TV stations’ broadcasts. These are some examples:

Using Facial Recognition to Fight Crime, KGW-TV  Shared to Facebook (3.5K views) and Twitter (6.4K views)

Local deputies using facial recognition software to fight crime, KPTV-TV  Shared to Facebook (4.2K views) and Twitter (4.2K views)

Washington County, Ore., Adds Facial Recognition to Suite of Investigative Tools, Government Technology News  Shared to Facebook (3.9K views) and Twitter (3.3K views)

March 2018 Monthly Newsletter, WCSO  Subscriber base of approximately 40,000

And while I believe we’ve developed a strong policy for the responsible use of facial recognition technology, I also strongly advocate our Oregon legislature establish a multi-disciplinary workgroup to determine limits on its use by law enforcement. I look forward to being part of that discussion, sharing our experience, and continuing to learn. In the meantime, we remain focused on being leaders in the responsible use of law enforcement technology as an important way to make our community safer.

Pat

Campaign Fundraising

 

I think we can all agree that campaign fundraising has never been a celebrated part of our political process. As an elected official, I’ve raised funds to support levies for public safety and library services, as well as for my own campaigns. Campaign fundraising is critical to helping me get my message out to voters and best communicate my priorities and values.

The cost of local elections in a county the size of Washington County can be quite high. Last year, campaign costs for each candidate in the District Attorney’s contest were well over $200,000. People with political savvy tell me the sheriff’s campaign could easily reach $100,000.

Planning for these campaign costs means allowing and soliciting financial support while continuing to remain separated from roles which constitute a conflict of interest. I’m honored by individuals and organizations who want to help because they know me, or know the terrific work our Sheriff’s Office team accomplishes every day under my leadership.

I invite you to help me share with residents of Washington County my vision to continue a strong and respectful public safety system. You can donate here, as well as let me know of other ways you are willing to help.

Thank you; I am enormously grateful to and honored by all who support me.

Pat

Police Policy Committee and Brady v. Maryland

 

Accountability in law enforcement helps bond the agency to the public they serve. That accountability is promoted and achieved on several levels, including Oregon State licensing for officers through Oregon’s Department of Public Safety Standards and Training (DPSST), enforcement of agency policies, and determinations by the District Attorney that an officer’s credibility issues make the officer unsuitable for use as a witness in criminal cases.

I recently completed four years serving on the Police Policy Committee for DPSST. DPSST’s mission is to promote excellence in public safety by delivering quality training and developing and upholding professional standards. The Police Policy Committee supports the latter part of DPSST’s mission in misconduct cases before the Committee – upholding professional standards by deciding whether the law enforcement officer can remain certified in Oregon.

The committee reviews police misconduct cases and recommends to the DPSST Board whether to deny, suspend, or revoke state certification to be a law enforcement officer. The 16-member Committee is comprised of a mix of law enforcement agency management, non-management and community members. DPSST conducts an application process to fill vacancies, and members serve up to four years.

 

 

With DPSST Board Chair Patricia Patrick-Joling and Police Policy Committee Chair, Police Chief John Teague (August 15, 2019)

 

 

Minnesota’s Star Tribune credited the Police Policy Committee with earning DPSST “national recognition for holding law enforcement officers accountable”. We are proud that Oregon’s accountability system and the Committee’s work is considered a model for other states.

Recommendations by the committee to revoke a law enforcement officer’s certification require a finding that the conduct constitutes a lack of moral fitness. Moral fitness includes four categories: 1) dishonesty, 2) disregard for the rights of others, 3) misuse of authority, and 4) gross misconduct (deliberate disregard for the law, or threats to person, property or efficient agency operations). In making a decision, the Committee also considers circumstances, both mitigating (the totality of the person’s service and personal situation) and aggravating (factors that make the conduct more serious), as well as whether or not it’s the first time they’ve been before the Committee and other relevant factors.

The seriousness with which everyone on the Committee fulfills their responsibility to ensure Oregon police officers are held to a high standard was enlightening. Preparing for each quarterly meeting varied, but at times could take several days because some cases contained reams of reports and documents to read and assess. There’s no doubt Committee members understand their work is an important part in maintaining police accountability and public confidence in Oregon’s law enforcement profession. Committee members engage in valuable, insightful discussion, ask good questions of DPSST staff, and depending on the case vigorously deliberate before a vote.

After reviewing hundreds of cases from agencies across the state, I can confidently tell you our Sheriff’s Office accountability process is appropriate and effective. A good system includes components to best ensure fairness and accountability, and recognizes that the process is stressful for everyone involved. These components are all part of the “just cause” standard that includes rules and policies that are fair and fairly applied, an impartial and detailed investigation and report, facts that are established by convincing evidence, and mitigating and aggravating factors. I can say with equal confidence the professionals at your sheriff’s office set high ethical standards for themselves and are part of the accountability system that ensures those standards are met.

There is another accountability system that can impose serious consequence on officers who are found to have been untruthful or dishonest. The District Attorney (DA) can determine that an officer’s credibility is so impaired by a finding of untruthfulness or dishonesty that the officer will not be used as a witness in any criminal case, or that the DA must notify all criminal defendants of the circumstances of the officer’s misconduct so that the defendant can raise it at trial when the officer testifies. Officers determined to have serious honesty and credibility issues by the DA are often referred to as being put on the “Brady list”. This is based upon a case called Brady v. Maryland in which the Supreme Court ruled that prosecutors must turn over all evidence that might exonerate a defendant, to include evidence about an officer favorable to the defense. In some cases, the DA may choose not to use the officer in question as a witness in any criminal case because they are simply not credible enough for the jury to believe. Because of the official finding that the officer’s credibility is impaired, this can also have significant consequences in any civil cases where the officer is called as a witness.

Police Policy Committee

Over the last four years I learned a lot from my Committee colleagues about Oregon’s accountability process, as well as gained important perspective on our local processes. I wish the Committee the very best as they continue to serve Washington County and communities across Oregon!

Pat

Because You Asked – Uniforms

 

This blog, and subsequent “Because You Asked” blogs are in response to questions asked by you, the community I serve. Each volume will address 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.

Question:

Is wearing your uniform to campaign, while blocking your opponent from doing the same, hypocritical or appropriate from a leader of both the community, and of the men and women who serve the citizens of Washington County?

The answer to this question must first address the rules for campaigning in uniform. Once that is answered, then the “appropriateness” question can be addressed.

Washington County, like most public agencies, has a long-standing policy that prohibits an employee from wearing a uniform or using agency owned or operated equipment, vehicles or other county property to promote or oppose a political candidate or ballot measure. These rules apply to any county employee whose job includes a uniform, not only to Sheriff’s Office uniformed employees. The policy is not intended to stifle anyone’s ambition to hold public office or exercise their right to advocate for or against a ballot measure. Its purpose is to avoid politicizing public sector positions, to maintain focus on service and limit distractions, to protect the reputation and credibility of the County, and to ensure no ambiguity exists about official positions or statements that represent the official views of the County.

Washington County policy, Article 13, Ethical Standards, 13.1.1, Political Activity On The Job, states; “Employees of the County shall not solicit any money, influence, service or other things of value or otherwise aid or promote any political committee or cause, or the nomination or election of any person to public office or passage/defeat of any ballot measure while on the job during working hours. Further, employees shall not use county equipment, materials or other resources to promote any political committee or cause or the nomination or election of any person to public office or passage/defeat of any ballot measure.”

As the sheriff, I have no authority to waive County policy.

The Sheriff’s Office has the same goal as the County and many other city, county or state governments to prohibit use of public resources to promote campaigns or political causes by public employees. Therefore, the Sheriff’s Office has a similar policy as the County on this issue.

The question is do these policies apply to the Sheriff, and why or why not.

The policy applies to employees, not elected officials, such as Sheriff. This is because an elected official is accountable to the electorate.

Unlike an employee, whose official duties and responsibilities are limited to duty hours, an elected official’s duties and responsibilities exist 24 hours a day, 365 days a year, as long as they are in office. The Office of Sheriff (and each county has only one) comes with a sheriff’s uniform and badge – historical symbols of the Office of Sheriff and the responsibility to serve as the chief executive officer of the County. I proudly wear the uniform at the office and in the community. The sheriff has the privilege and responsibility to serve as the public face of the Office of Sheriff and to speak for the Office. Employees do not.

Unlike an employee, an elected official’s responsibilities include advocating on behalf of their organization and electorate on political issues, whether that’s advocating for local option levies that help fund the organization or opposing or supporting legislation that affects the community. What an employee is restricted from doing, an elected official is expected to do. I have been able to do this in a variety of ways, including serving on the Governor’s Drug & Alcohol Policy Commission and advocating for the successful campaign to continue the Washington County Public Safety Local Option Levy in 2015.

So the original question remains, is wearing your uniform to campaign, while blocking your opponent from doing the same, appropriate.

Currently my opponent is a Sheriff’s Office employee. As stated above, I cannot change County policy. Therefore, I can neither block (nor allow) my opponent from wearing a uniform while campaigning.

I can, however, address the appropriateness of me wearing my uniform to campaign.

I believe wearing my uniform while campaigning falls into four categories of appropriateness. I’ve listed an example of each.

  • Necessary – an event or meeting where I am representing the Sheriff’s Office, but could discuss or be asked about a campaign issue. I recently wore my uniform to the county fair and National Night Out events where I showcased the terrific work of our hard-working professionals at the Sheriff’s Office and reinforced the solid relationships we have with our community.
  • Appropriate – an event at which I am campaigning, but that also includes Sheriff’s Office representation at the event or an associated event. A good example would be participation in a parade where I’m clearly campaigning, but at the end I represent the Sheriff’s Office in a booth associated with the parade/event, not my campaign.
  • Unnecessary – a parade or event with no Sheriff’s Office representation, and I am only campaigning, not acting or speaking as the current Sheriff.
  • Inappropriate – door to door campaigning.

When I feel it’s inappropriate or unnecessary, I will not wear my uniform to campaign. However, when I feel it’s necessary or appropriate, I will wear my uniform and will represent the office of sheriff. It’s what I’m charged to do as your Sheriff.

Pat

Thoughts Following Last Thursday

Last Thursday’s events weigh heavily on my heart. I debated whether it was appropriate to speak on the matter in a public forum. I wondered whether addressing more than just the facts was the right thing to do during such a sensitive time. Days later, as one of our deputies still remains in the hospital ICU, I wrestle to put into words my feelings.

 

In the simplest of terms, I feel anger at what someone did to our deputies. I feel pain, helplessness, sadness, and hope – sometimes all at once. Towards the injured deputies and their families I feel indebted and protective. I feel frustrated because I want to control something which is out of my control.

 

I also feel encouraged by the unity and support among Sheriff’s Office staff and their families. Because of this unity we can, and do, reach out to each other for friendship, comfort, and encouragement. Those gestures create a holistic support system and help us better deal with how each of us feels.

 

Most strongly, I feel committed to the affected deputies and their families – to care for and support them – today and always.

 

Pat

National Night Out 2019

National Night Out is a community building program that promotes police-community partnerships and neighborhood camaraderie. It’s anchored by neighborhood and community gatherings where we reconnect with old friends in our community, in addition to making new. Overall community safety and trust get a shot in the arm on National Night Out because we strengthen our relationships. Deputies answer good questions and get very timely neighborhood updates. National Night Out is great for our entire county because every city also does a great job partnering with neighborhoods that evening.

National Night Out events for this year took place yesterday evening. Every year at this time we are appropriately reminded of the community support we’re fortunate to have for our Sheriff’s Office professionals. We could not successfully accomplish our mission without these neighborhood connections and supportive communities. National Night Out gives us a chance to thank them for that support and to brag a little about the great work our deputies do every day.

Every day deputies display professionalism, grit, and heart as they give back to their community with the important work they do.

For example, one of the many impressive skills Jail deputies develop through training and experience is de-escalation. In Jail, deputies are experts at deescalating potential violence (or on occasion quell actual violence) by using excellent communication skills, patience and, when appropriate, restraints. Using their de-escalation skills to address such challenges is truly impressive to see in action. In concert with Jail Services Technicians and medical staff, Jail deputies do an excellent job at very challenging work to keep inmates safe and maintain a full schedule of events. They are awesome team players and stay flexible to adjust when the unexpected happens.

Recently while with Patrol deputies I was struck by their initiative and follow-through to keep our community safe. After excellent police work on a traffic stop led to an arrest of a meth dealer (admission + dealer-level quantity), deputies put together a plan to catch the “dealer’s dealer.” While their second-layer efforts didn’t pan out that day, such efforts prevail other times. In addition that day, deputies investigated a serious traffic crash on a busy highway, successfully captured a fleeing felon near a park with families and children, and reunited puppies with their lost caretakers.

With our many non-uniform professionals, all our deputies make a terrific team to keep us safe! I am relentlessly thankful for their professionalism, grit, and heart. And I’m also incredibly thankful for all the community members who partner with and support them, and become part of our team!

We’ll see you next year at National Night Out,

Pat