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

Why Does It Matter That Our Community Works Together To Reach Our Goals?

 

In a world that seems increasingly combative and isolationist, it can also seem that working together toward common goals is out of date and pointless.

I disagree.

Leaders I most admire throughout history, to include Mahatma Gandhi, Martin Luther King, Jr., and Abraham Lincoln always emphasized community cooperation with an eye toward reconciliation.  They realized that their methods of achieving goals were as important as the achievement. They realized that truly transformative change must unite, rather than divide.

If you look at my record, you will see my focus to unite reflected in my community relationships. I wrote about this, in part, in a previous blog about relationships.

Over the years I’ve co-hosted Hispanic Town Hall meetings in Cornelius with City officials, partnered with Centro Cultural for Cornelius events with presentations and question and answer forums, hosted Hispanic town hall meetings in Aloha, and stood with the Director of Centro Cultural to debate Measure 105. In an environment fraught with fear and distrust, I hosted the Department of Homeland Security Civil Rights Community Conference at Sheriff’s Office, bringing impacted community members together with federal and local law enforcement partners to increase communication and understanding.  In 2017 Centro honored me with their Community Champion award.

I’ve enjoyed an 18-year relationship with the diverse community at the Bilal Mosque in Aloha, as well as the Muslim Educational Trust (MET) to collaborate across a range of issues. They have graciously opened their places of worship to our leaders and deputies as we attend their open house events, and I have been honored to provide a greeting during Friday prayer gatherings. They have addressed their civic concerns with me, always with an eye to transformative change and reconciliation through authentic relationships. They have also welcomed my wife and I as guests, and we’ve been lucky to know them and their families. Then five years ago, I joined the director of the Muslim Educational Trust, the U.S. Attorney’s Office, our District Attorney’s Office and others to plan and conduct annual Building Bridges Seminars to bring regional law enforcement and justice officials together with diverse communities for workshops and discussions to build trust, mutual understanding and support. In 2016 the MET recognized our relationship with a “Friends of the Muslim Educational Trust” award.

During my year as Oregon State Sheriff’s Association president, I worked closely with sheriffs and police chiefs across our diverse state to build cohesion, mutual respect, support, and appreciation. Last year I was asked to address attendees at an interfaith safety seminar at Congregation Neveh Shalom about the importance of interfaith and interagency collaboration to best keep our community safe. The seminar helped us connect diverse places of worship with our security experts for advice so their security measures can be as effective as possible and everyone can feel safe wherever they choose to worship. And I’m honored to discuss current safety and cultural issues with the Washington County Civic Leaders Project, led by the county’s Community Engagement Team and Adelante Mujeres, that provides training in local government structures and the rights and opportunities of underrepresented community members to participate in decisions that may impact their lives.

But these examples don’t exist in a vacuum. They are part of the Sheriff’s Office culture. Because I, and we, truly believe that bringing people and community together is our best way forward. By focusing on what we have in common, appreciating our differences, and valuing reconciliation, we can achieve our goals and keep our community safe.

Pat

Because You Asked; Homelessness, Substance Abuse and Mental Health

 

“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 – As a suburban area of Portland, how do you plan to address the growing problem we face in the county stemming from homelessness, substance abuse, and mental health crisis that the state and nation as a whole is facing? How will you keep areas under your protection from turning into Portland?

These questions involve complex and intersecting community challenges. I believe the Sheriff’s Office’s role in meeting these challenges is to be a dependable partner in developing and implementing solutions, and my voice and energies as an elected official can support solutions. The good news is we have been involved as partners and innovators to help address these challenges. I will highlight our role and where I intend to lead further in these areas.

Homelessness. According to the Point in Time (PIT) report, the number of homeless individuals in Washington County grew from 522 in 2018 to 530 in 2019, approximately a 1.5% increase. (The 2020 PIT numbers have not yet been posted on the county website.) Having served for several years on Washington County’s Homeless Planning Advisory Committee, I learned that among the multitude of factors involved in homelessness, the underlying problem in communities where people are increasingly without homes is a lack of affordable housing. In Washington County it’s clear market forces are not building affordable housing. Land and construction are too expensive. Affordable housing used to be treated in a manner similar to infrastructure by the federal government, but public housing funds were drastically cut in the early 1980’s. Across the country, states and counties do not have the resources to fill the gap, and Oregon is no exception. Current ways we are helping and where we can do more include:

Deputy Outreach to Homeless
  • While limited to a part-time basis due to other Patrol Division demands, several deputies conduct outreach with homeless individuals to connect them to housing and services in concert with the Washington County Housing Authority and Community Connect. Deputies invest time over multiple conversations to build trust with homeless individuals to take necessary steps to access housing and resources. With help, encouragement, and in some cases transportation by a deputy to the local Community Connect office, many individuals have been re-housed.
  • Through our partnership with the Washington County Housing Authority, we will support future residents in the approximate 1,300 affordable housing units funded by the voter-approved Metro Regional Housing Bond. Of those units, about 100 are planned to provide permanent supportive housing and services for individuals with needs to include mental health and substance use disorder. Additional supportive housing is planned through the Regional Supportive Housing Impact Fund (RSHIF) strategic framework supported by a collection of collaborative funders. Kaiser Permanente recently made an amazing $1.3 million investment to this effort in Washington County. In this way, we can better address chronic homelessness while also reducing the rate homeless individuals end up in Jail because their untreated mental illness and/or addiction led to criminal conduct.
    • I will explore ways to expand homeless outreach by patrol deputies to work with our partners to connect more homeless individuals with services and housing.
  • We will also support Washington County Housing Authority’s “Built for Zero” strategy by continuing our work to be part of the Homeless Management Information System (HMIS) that connects the many involved agencies and non-profits to homeless individuals to increase service coordination and prioritize services by risk and need. Recently, one of our deputies became the first law enforcement officer in Washington County to become part of the HMIS.
  • Regarding offenders who do not have a residence upon release following a Jail sentence, our support to federal HUD reentry grants and housing navigators helps transition those in custody to housing upon release to support healthy outcomes and a crime free future.

Substance Use Disorder. Based on my experience serving on the Governor’s Alcohol and Drug Policy Commission (ADCP) and over 30 years in law enforcement, it’s crystal clear that the lack of prevention, intervention, treatment and recovery services does not support healthy outcomes for those with addiction, and in fact places a huge burden on families, communities, and our public safety and health agencies. To reduce the rate of addiction in Washington County, I will:

  • Fully support the implementation of the state-wide strategic plan the Oregon legislature has tasked the Drug Policy Commission to produce. After much hard work, our Commission approved the plan on February 13, 2020, and it will soon be presented to the Governor and legislative leadership. The plan provides intermediate and long-term goals for state and local agencies in order to lower the rate of Oregonians with addiction from 9.4% in 2017 to 6.5% by 2024, and decrease overall morbidity and related health disparities. As Sheriff, I will encourage passage of enabling legislation that the plan will require for improved outcomes locally and across Oregon.
  • Continue our support to Washington County’s Hawthorne Walk-In Center for Mental Health and Addiction because of the life-changing treatment and pro-health services available to everyone who walks in, regardless of socio-economic status or means. Many who receive services there are referrals from deputies and police officers across Washington County.
  • Support new and innovative local programs like the 4D Recovery Center in Hillsboro.
  • In concert with the county’s Health Department and non-profit service providers, explore a Law Enforcement Assisted Diversion (LEAD) Program. LEAD will identify partners and build momentum, identify a specific substance misuse population, study similar communities where LEAD works, secure funding, develop intentional goals and policy, and start small and scale-up what works.

Mental Health. As the Sheriff, being a reliable partner and leading our agency in support of improved mental health services is part of a larger community effort. In my role as Sheriff I have:

  • Served on the policy development committee to establish the above-mentioned Hawthorne Walk-In Center for mental health services. In 2019, over 1,000 individuals were served as a result of a law enforcement referral or transport to the Center; the Center’s healing services divert some from Jail custody, and I will partner with them to expand their hours of operation. Their important work is at the intersection of mental health and substance use disorder, and I look forward to continuing our work there.
  • Continued county-wide services of our Mental Health Response Teams who provide compassionate, effective care and service to those with mental illness or when in crisis.
  • Strongly supported Mental Health Court to help non-violent offenders diagnosed with a mental illness successfully complete probation. This program helps reduce the chance those with mental illness return to Jail.
  • Strongly supported Jail services in place to better treat someone with mental health factors who becomes incarcerated, including psychiatric nursing staff, and a mental health liaison who can connect the person to services upon release.
  • Continued to lobby the Oregon legislature for increased funding for mental health and addiction services.

In addition to continuing these efforts, in concert with Justice System partners I will explore a justice system triage center to increase diversion from Jail to mental health services in certain minor cases that involve a mentally ill person.

While the role of Sheriff is important in meeting these enormous challenges, our entire community must answer the call. We are fortunate in Washington County that local governments, agencies, community-based organizations, robust civic organizations, and volunteers are very collaborative. Previously, I wrote about the importance of fostering supportive relationships as part of being an effective leader to promote collaboration and partnerships that support problem solving, no matter the size or scope. These relationships are vital to keep Washington County the safest urban county in Oregon and the beautiful place we call home.

Pat

Why Does It Matter Who’s Sheriff? Relationships.

 

One of my favorite professors, Marty Linsky, once said of leadership that “relationships are primary, everything else is secondary.”

With Washington County Chair Kathryn Harrington

This certainly applies to law enforcement (LE). Our diverse communities of culture, business, faith, LE agencies, and local government must work together under many different, and sometimes challenging circumstances to support each other. Successful interagency and community relationships involve commitment from leadership, a track record of actions over words, listening, mutual understanding, and investing time with respect and honesty. To be truly effective in public safety, we need trusting relationships, developed and tested.

The following highlights three examples of these trusting relationships.

With North Plains Mayor Teri Lenahan

Community Relationships. I first met a leader from a local Mosque on September 12, 2001. Given the previous day’s events in New York and the Pentagon, our two groups agreed it was time to get to know each other and share our concerns about community safety. At the time, I was a Sergeant. Because I was excited about the potential this relationship could have to improve our community knowledge and overall safety, I offered to be the lead from our agency. As with all relationships, it took some time to develop and establish trust. But we stayed-the-course, continued to meet, ask questions, share community goals, attend each other’s community events, meet each other’s families, and over time built an abiding relationship. In 2004, an international incident unrelated to the Mosque brought to them what felt like crushing media attention. We worked with the media to establish ground rules to lower anxiety for everyone and interfaced on each other’s behalf to bring other groups and agencies into our growing discussion and relationship. When a concern or rumor develops about community safety, an interaction, or

With Executive Director Maria Caballero Rubio, Centro Cultural

an event, we resolve it. When an opportunity to bring us together develops, we make it happen. Sometimes calls are made late at night because the matter feels pressing. But over the 19 years since our first meeting, we’ve grown to better understand each other, be better problem-solvers, and appreciate each other as individuals and community members. We work through challenging times because we know each other, enjoy a mutual understanding, and make generous assumptions because of the trust built up over many years. What started as a purposeful friendship between two individuals has become a purposeful relationship between two organizations. I am proud that members from the Sheriff’s Office and the Mosque act – words alone are insufficient – in ways that continue to grow our relationship.

With FBI Supervisory Agent in Charge Renn Cannon

Interagency Relationships. Long before becoming Sheriff I was working to deepen relationships and partnerships with many area agencies. Our deputies and officers from local police departments rely on each other to cover each other on emergency calls and work together on special teams. Our success, and sometimes survival, depends on our interagency relationships, so I prioritize developing and maintaining meaningful trusting relationships with other LE agencies. Several years ago, I was approached by the local FBI supervisory agent in charge (SAC) who was interested in assigning an agent to a local interagency task force. This interest came because I had previously gotten to know the SAC and developed a relationship, as well as our history for being good partners, doing good work. To keep this relationship strong, I regularly communicate with the local FBI SAC. Benefits of our strong relationship include excellent collaboration. FBI investigators have long partnered with our narcotics taskforce, and we work together on gang investigations and assess a wide range of potential local threats. This partnership adds important capacity to these challenging cases. One example; an investigation three years ago led to the conviction of a local, dangerous bomb-maker. In addition, FBI negotiators also partner with our local crisis negotiations unit. Interagency work at the local level, combined with participation by our federal partners, adds public value, knowledge, and skill to our collective effort to best solve and prevent crime, and peacefully resolve dangerous situations.

Local Government Relationships. Sheriff’s Office deputies provide jail, law enforcement services, and civil enforcement services county-wide. Our primary focus for law enforcement services are to unincorporated areas, though much of our work is also within incorporated cities in partnership with city police departments. City residents have a police department, and their police officers are the city’s primary providers in law enforcement. In my eight years as Sheriff, several cities have expressed interest in exploring partnerships with the Sheriff’s Office to provide their law enforcement services. While our good reputation is enough to begin these discussions, I learned an agreement is simply not possible unless we have trusting relationships with city leaders and the community. That takes effort, time, humility, and a commitment by leaders to put the community first. These discussions turned into policing agreements with two cities, and I am humbled by it because I recognize these are difficult decision for a city to make. I and other leaders strive to ensure our relationships are underpinned by actions that reinforce our role as a trusted partner, working together to align our goals, effective communication, evaluation of our work, and course-correction when needed. While all our professionals do an excellent job in these assignments, we also understand that relationships are primary, both to the policing agreement’s origin, and to its continuation.

With United States Attorney for Oregon, Billy Williams

While I’ve cited only three relationships, many more exist and are essential to our effectiveness in public safety – Centro Cultural; the U.S. Marshal for Oregon, Russ Berger; the Board of Commissioners; the Muslim Educational Trust; the United States Attorney for Oregon, Billy Williams; Community Corrections – to name just a few. It takes years and a deep commitment to relationship-building with people and communities to develop these relationships.

I’ve spent 31 years building the trusting relationships necessary for us to work effectively with all our partners to do our best work and keep our community safe.

Because relationships are primary.

Pat

Because You Asked – Race, Data, and Enforcement Equity

 

“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 – It’s been stated that many minorities are coded as being “white” or “Caucasian” in internal Sheriff’s Office systems and that the data made publicly available is not accurate. What policies and procedures have you enacted or will you enact to make sure data is collected and properly coded and made available to the public? How do you address claims that Washington County Sheriff’s Office disproportionately arrests, incarcerates, or targets people from minority groups? What have you done, and what will you do or continue to do in the future to make sure that minority residents in the county feel safe and are not overtly or covertly targeted unfairly?

Excellent questions. Issues of policing, communities of color, data, history, institutional disparate impacts, and our responsibility to eliminate those impacts are important and complex.

First, racial categories used by the Washington County Sheriff’s Office (WCSO) match those required for reporting to state and federal authorities. We report data on traffic and person stops to state authorities, but we report arrest data for federal reporting. While the state and federal race categories are similar, their differences are significant, so I will provide some detail and context for both.

State Categories – Traffic and Person Stops. In 2017, the Oregon Legislature passed House Bill 2355, which created the Statistical Transparency of Policing Program. From this was born a workgroup to determine categories officers must use to record the perceived race of a driver or person stopped by police. The legislative workgroup included community and advocacy leaders, state government, and law enforcement. They consulted the Oregon Population Research Center at Portland State University to establish six categories of race: White, Hispanic, Black, Native American, Middle Eastern, and Asian and Pacific Islander. These established categories almost align with race categories used by the U.S. Census, but add Hispanic and Middle Eastern. Importantly to note, race is not listed on a driver’s license, and the legislature did not think it appropriate for officers to ask a person to identify their race when involved in a traffic or pedestrian stop. Accordingly, officers are required to record what they perceive the stopped person’s race to be. Those perceptions may not always match what the person’s self-identified race. Admittedly, the system created by House Bill 2355 is not perfect – legislation seldom is. But it is important to remember that despite House Bill 2355’s imperfections, prior to this legislation most agencies were not collecting any racial data for stops. So this is an measured improvement.

Federal Categories – Arrests. Oregon law requires state and local law enforcement agencies to report crime-related statistics for purposes of the FBI’s Uniform Crime Reporting System (ORS 181A.225). This includes data on the race of all arrested persons. The FBI’s system identifies five race categories for reporting: Asian or Pacific Islander, Black, American Indian or Alaskan Native, White, and Unknown. This list is found in the manuals for both the national Law Enforcement Data System (LEDS) of the National Crime Information Center (NCIC), and the FBI’s Uniform Crime Reporting Program. I feel the race categories determined by federal authorities are too narrow, don’t begin to reflect our diverse, multi-racial community, and in my view could reinforce stereotypes, and I’m encouraging them to expand those categories to more accurately reflect a diverse community. (It’s noteworthy the U.S. Census racial categories are also quite limited and include only five categories.) Using the data we and other law enforcement agencies provide them, the FBI compiles a wide range of crime-related statistics from across the country for trending and research. The most recent FBI report of Washington County can be viewed here and is also linked to our website.

I believe the best way to address claims of WCSO enforcement inequity is with facts, statistics, and analysis. And the Statistical Transparency of Policing Program helps me do that.

House Bill 2355 did much more than just create a workgroup that developed racial categories for stops. It also tasked the Oregon Criminal Justice Commission (CJC) to analyze law enforcement traffic and person stops to ensure fair and impartial policing practices. The analysis is modeled after similar programs in other states. All Oregon law enforcement agencies submit data to the Oregon CJC for analysis; agencies with over 100 officers reported in 2019; agencies with 51 to 100 officers will report in 2020 and remaining agencies in 2021. As a larger agency, we were fortunate to be one of the first twelve law enforcement entities to participate in the program.

The program requires collection of multiple data points by every law enforcement officer for each stop:

  • The date and time of the stop.
  • Its location.
  • The perceived race/ethnicity of the person stopped.
  • Their age and gender.
  • The legal basis for the stop.
  • The disposition of the stop: whether a warning, citation, or summons was issued, whether a search was conducted, the type of search conducted, whether criminal evidence was found as a result of the search, and whether an arrest was made.

CJC analysts issued a report on their findings related to the first twelve participating agencies on November 25, 2019. Analysts used multiple, evidence-based methods to identify if an agency has statistically significant indications of racial disparities. As the CJC issued its report, it clearly noted that, even if an indication of disparate outcomes is identified, it does not necessarily mean intentional bias is present. The analysts also note that the commonly used straight-line comparison of stops to census data of racial and ethnic categories has significant weaknesses and is not a best-practice.

Due to sample size and statistical modeling limitations, agency-specific analysis by the CJC is limited to White, Black, and Hispanic for all 12 large agencies. Their analysis of our data overall supports deputies make decisions based on facts and behaviors. However, by a small margin, there were two areas where results were outside predicted norms. To summarize the analysis of our data:

  • CJC analysts described the quality of WCSO data as the “gold standard.”
  • WCSO deputies stop White, Black, and Hispanic drivers and pedestrians at equitable rates.
  • WCSO deputies conduct searches of White, Black and Hispanic drivers and pedestrians at equitable rates.
  • As a result of searches, WCSO deputies find evidence or contraband equitably and with a high rate of success.
  • Rates of citations and arrests for White and Black drivers and pedestrians are equitable.
  • Rates of citations and arrests for Hispanic drivers and pedestrians are found to occur at higher rates. The predicted rate of arrest is 3.7%, while the actual rate of arrest is 4.7%. The predicted citation rate is 28.0%, whereas the actual rate is 32.1%.

Finding out that our rates of citations and arrests of Hispanic drivers and pedestrians occur at a slightly higher rate was initially alarming and clearly warrants further research and continued diligence. However, we believe we understand why the data shows this discrepancy. According to the Criminal Justice Commission research director, a higher rate of citations for unlicensed and suspended drivers could well account for this disparity, which is what we suspect. Indeed, our analysis confirms that records of our traffic citations show a higher proportion of Hispanic drivers cited for infractions of not having a driver’s license and driving-while-suspended, in addition to arrests for those who are suspended at the criminal level. Historically, deputies issue citations for these types of violations (rather than warnings). This is consistent with the public’s expectation that we take enforcement action if we find unlicensed or suspended drivers on the roadway.

We also believe that this higher proportion was largely due to the recently changed Oregon law that (previously) prohibited undocumented persons from obtaining a driver’s license. We strongly support efforts to increase driving license rates and are happy to partner in ways that support that goal. More licensed drivers mean safer roads and more insured drivers.

Thanks to House Bill 2355, we have facts, statistics, and analysis. And with our support, the Criminal Justice Commission has agreed to analyze the data further. I look forward to the results of this analysis and to continuing our efforts to ensure WCSO enforcement action is equitable across all racial categories.

As justice system representatives and good community partners, we work hard to build trust and achieve equitable outcomes so everyone in the county not only is safe, but feels safe. To this end, our training, standards, policy, and community work and plans include:

  1. After becoming sheriff in 2011, I decided to start collecting perceived race data from traffic stops because I wanted to be informed about its overall trends. I was convinced the data would become more important as our county grew in diversity, and being able to provide the data publicly was important for transparency.
  2. I support additional federal racial reporting categories to more accurately reflect diverse communities.
  3. We will explore expanding our racial reporting categories for booking inmates when we implement a new Jail data management system in late 2020.
  4. I supported passage of House Bill 2355, that created the Statistical Transparency of Policing Program, and I represented Oregon policing at the Governor’s bill signing ceremony.
  5. Implemented clear policy that prohibits profiling; we investigate all such complaints, which are rare.
  6. Our Traffic Safety Manual is underpinned, in part, by a prohibition against biased policing, prioritizing driver education, professionalism and courtesy when contacting drivers.
  7. For 15 years we have measured up to the high standards of professionalism, policy, leadership and accountability required of the National Commission on Accreditation for Law Enforcement Agencies and earned the Accreditation with Excellence Award during the last on-site inspection. Staying focused to meet high standards is part of our culture: our Jail professionals achieved 100% passing score on the 2019 Oregon Jail Standards inspection; our Jail Health Services are accredited by the National Commission on Corrections Healthcare; our Forensics Unit just earned International Accreditation.
  8. I look forward to being a member of Washington County’s Leadership Equity Council planned for 2020.
  9. Bias awareness training and facilitated discussions for staff began in 2015.
  10. Equity, Inclusion and Diversity training and discussions, most recently in 2019 following year-long research, trainer development and preparation. Our diverse training team is researching our next training iteration; several members serve on the County’s Staff Equity Committee.
  11. We are deploying body worn cameras that will provide a historical account of exactly what the deputy saw, heard and said during each enforcement action. Outfitting every deputy will take several years in the current budget plan. Body worn cameras are the biggest advancement in police transparency in my 31-year career. Deputies look forward to cameras recording their good work as well as providing evidentiary value.
  12. Hosted Department of Homeland Security Civil Rights Community Conference at Sheriff’s Office.
  13. Five years ago, I joined the director of the Muslim Educational Trust, the U.S. Attorney’s Office, our District Attorney’s Office and others to plan and conduct annual Building Bridges Seminars to bring regional law enforcement and justice officials together with diverse communities for workshops and discussions to build trust, mutual understanding and support.
  14. Co-host Hispanic Town Hall meetings in Cornelius with City officials.
  15. Partnering with Centro Cultural for events in Cornelius, with presentations and question and answer forums.
  16. Stood with the Director of Centro Cultural to debate Measure 105.
  17. Hosted Hispanic Town Hall meetings in Aloha.
  18. Partnering with area business to join in Indian Holi Festival celebrations for staff and families.
  19. Enjoy 18-year relationship with the diverse community at the Bilal Mosque in Aloha to collaborate across a range of issues; our leaders and deputies attend their open house events, and I have been honored to provide a greeting during Friday prayer gatherings.
  20. I have been honored to be recognized by the Muslim Educational Trust with a “Friends of the Muslim Educational Trust” award, and also by Central Cultural with the “Community Champion Award.” I would not have received these without the good work of our entire Sheriff’s Office.

The shadow cast by our nation’s history of systemic racial discrimination challenges all of us in law enforcement to continue our work to earn and deepen the trust our diverse communities have in us. The work can be made more challenging by national and regional events and circumstances out of our control. Law enforcement operates in a challenging environment with issues our society struggles to appropriately address, including homelessness, behavioral health, substance abuse disorder, and racial equity. We also accept that all of us have implicit bias. So we train to better recognize it, helping us avoid inaccurate conclusions and inequitable outcomes.

Our commitment to be bias-free involves multiple, interrelated systems. Complaint investigations and internal checks remain a critical part of guarding against bias-based policing. However, based on the excellent training, policy, and culture of high standards, professionalism, and compassion maintained by leaders and deputies, I am more confident than ever that deputies make decisions and base enforcement action on facts and behaviors. Initiatives like Oregon’s Statistical Transparency of Policing Program and strong laws against profiling are critical to improving justice system equity. Such laws need to be reinforced by agency policies and culture that prohibit profiling, along with agency training to protect against the negative impact of bias and strengthen support for equity, inclusion and diversity – all of which we’re doing at the Sheriff’s Office.

Pat

New Training Center and Initial Results

 

Based on feedback from deputies and visitors, as well as my own training experience, the recently opened Public Safety Training Center (PSTC) exceeds my expectations as an excellent place to train that conveys our commitment to professionalism and safety.

(Gathering to Debrief, Following Scenario-Based Training)

Recently, I attended training at the PSTC that is required for all uniformed staff, regardless of rank. I enjoy these training days because I have an opportunity to step out of my day-to-day role and train with frontline staff. While training shoulder to shoulder with deputies at the training center, I benefited from being challenged in new ways across multiple skill areas in one day. Before having the PSTC, we would typically spend all day on a single training discipline (defensive tactics, for example) because of the training venue’s limitations. Recent training at our new facility included “scenario village” responses, defensive driving, the indoor range, and classroom instruction. Without exception, deputies from the Jail, Patrol, and our detectives tell me their training experience is excellent and the PSTC is well-designed and an impressive, engaging place to train. Excellent training is important to me because it’s a cornerstone of a professional law enforcement agency and best prepares deputies for work that can be dangerous.

(Hosting Criminal Justice Class)

While I envisioned the PSTC would also attract new applicants, I was pleasantly surprised how quickly it came to fruition. A few weeks ago, the Sheriff’s Office hosted 46 students from a college criminal justice program – our future public safety officers. We were fortunate to have them almost the entire day, and their first stop was the PSTC. Our deputy who organized the visit shared that the students thought the training center was “amazing”, and in their visits to other agencies they had not seen a comparable training venue or such a commitment to excellence in public safety training.

(Preparing Indoor Range)

These two events are strong initial statements the training center increases our skills and abilities in ways not possible before, while serving as an exciting recruiting tool in today’s competitive hiring environment. These and other benefits of this multi-disciplinary local training center include:

  • Consistent training across multiple Washington County agencies enables us to work together seamlessly to best keep our community safe.
  • We schedule training in ways that maximize its benefit to our deputies and specialists without having to negotiate the curtailed availability of other training facilities.
  • We integrate dynamic, changing situations in a learning environment so that when a challenge arises in the community or in our Jail, it’s less likely to be a new experience for our deputies or officers, enabling a more informed and appropriate response.
  • This facility provides repetitive training opportunities along with an unmatched level of realism, both critical to developing good decision-making skills while under stress.
  • Excellent training ensures our community can be more confident their law enforcement professionals do the right thing, especially when they must make split-second decisions and lives are on the line.
  • Recruiting is boosted when prospective applicants see both the state-of-the-art training facility, as well as our commitment to their safety and professionalism.

The work of deputies and police officers can be very dangerous, but they do it because they are committed to our community and our safety. A proven strategy to mitigate that danger is to provide excellent training in a consistent manner. Doing this requires an excellent place to train. The Public Safety Training Center is an excellent place to train, helping us best ensure we prepare our law enforcement professionals to keep our community, and themselves, safe.

Pat

 

 

 

Breadth of Sheriff’s Office

 

The Sheriff of Washington County manages a broad organization comprised of a large budget, large workforce, and a large variety of services to the community. And it matters that the Sheriff has the experience, training, and qualification to manage this breadth.

The Washington County Sheriff’s Office is one of the largest law enforcement agencies in the state, with an annual budget in excess of $125 million dollars. Its sheriff must prepare and allocate that budget with its various funding streams and constraints in a way that reflects organizational values, sets the organization’s direction, and achieves the best value for our diverse community. This takes knowledge, skill, and experience. Part of my Masters of Public Administration coursework at Portland State University was in public budgeting. This training was invaluable to me as I became more involved in higher level budget preparation. I have now been involved at the top level of the sheriff’s office budgeting process for many years. When I became chief deputy 14 years ago, I provided oversight for budget preparation. We allocate the budget mindful it’s the community’s money. As sheriff, I have been pleased to report to the community that for the fiscal year that ended in June 2018 we accomplished our mission and still returned to the county about 6% of our allotted budget, saving the community $7 million. (Due to constraints on how different funds can be spent, these funds could not be used to add Jail beds or create additional positions.)

Let me emphasize again, the Washington County Sheriff’s Office is one of the largest law enforcement agencies in the state, with just over 600 positions. Managing and leading these professionals is an honor and responsibility that requires and benefits from training and experience. You can read my thoughts on leadership in my previous blog on the subject. But I will briefly summarize my experience and training here: I have over 20 years in leadership positions at the Washington County Sheriff’s Office, and 25 years in the military as a leader, as well as extensive training to include much military coursework and training, and the John F. Kennedy School’s seminar for state and local leaders at Harvard.

As I mentioned in an earlier post, the sheriff’s office provides the most diverse array of services of any local public safety agency I know. Voters should ask anyone who wishes to be sheriff if they have all the necessary qualifications to hold the office, experience necessary to oversee all the different divisions, and sufficient training and experience to earn the highest levels of state certification.

An effective sheriff needs to be fully qualified to run the office and have knowledge and experience across the wide variety of services provided by the office. Over my 31-year career, I am fortunate to have experience with many of the various services and the professionals who provide them.

As a patrol deputy, I enjoyed being part of a team to keep our community safe. Whether working a lengthy investigation, running with a canine and handler to track a fleeing suspect or helping to connect a domestic violence survivor with safe housing after arresting the assailant, I always felt part of something important to our community. Every decision I make is through the lens of keeping our community safe, and that safety remains the priority of policing at the Washington County Sheriff’s Office.

As a former member of our Tactical Negotiations Team (SWAT), I am personally familiar with the risk associated with responding to resolve some of the most dangerous situations faced by law enforcement. I have strong memories of executing high-risk search warrants before daylight or, as an example, working late into the evening while we negotiated with an armed man seated in front of his garage threatening suicide with his firearm. Understanding that risk brings a commitment to ongoing and frequent training, excellent equipment, teamwork, interagency partnerships, and staying abreast of emerging best practices.

As an investigator on the Westside Interagency Narcotics Team and part of a team of investigators who focused on large scale illegal drug traffickers, I learned how to improve public safety by putting high-level drug traffickers out of business. These investigations frequently involve illegal firearms and paranoid traffickers who are quite willing to take great risk or possibly harm others to avoid apprehension.

Experience with multiple senior-level positions across each of the five major divisions in the sheriff’s office (east and west patrol, investigations, jail and services) and executive administration is crucial to understanding the big picture view of the operations occurring in the sheriff’s office. I feel very fortunate to have been provided the opportunity to work with every division in the sheriffs’ office during my service here.

I served as a division commander in both patrol and the jail. I am continually impressed with the high level of professionalism and teamwork in the Jail Division to run the county’s only jail. Important functions of operating our jail include direct supervision of inmates, programming (classes), and quality healthcare, while maintaining a culture of safety and respect.

One of many components of patrol west is Marine Patrol. As west patrol commander, I joined deputies assigned to marine duties who patrolled Henry Hagg Lake. A busy weekend can net 10,000 lake visitors, and deputies stay busy supporting water safety.

After being promoted from division commander to chief deputy, I accompanied civil deputies in our Services Division, as they served court-ordered documents. A sheriff’s office is the only local law enforcement agency in the state to serve civil orders of the court, like restraining orders, evictions, court summons, etc. In my travels with civil deputies, I found they are very focused on safety, but also patient, explaining the process, and doing their best to leave the person on positive terms.

As chief deputy, I provided oversight for budget preparation and our Services Division whose broad focus includes training, hiring, internal affairs, concealed handgun licensing, alarm permits, and more. And as undersheriff I had oversight of both east and west patrol divisions. As sheriff I am honored to represent all our divisions, and the professionals who work in them, equally.

In addition to asking themselves if a candidate for sheriff has the necessary qualifications and experience to hold the office, voters should also ask if the candidate has the required qualification to hold the office – certification. One of the primary missions of any Sheriffs’ Office is to provide effective police services. Because of that, any person who is elected to the Office of Sheriff must be certified as a police officer by the Oregon Department of Public Safety Standards and Training (DPSST) within one year of taking office. Certification as a police officer is the only required certification; corrections certification is not required. There is a big difference between being police certified and being corrections certified, which is why there is a separate academy for each. A person may run for sheriff, but without police certification, they are unqualified to serve for more than one year. To become qualified, they must attend and pass a four-month police academy and become police certified (ORS 206.015). Being away from the office of sheriff for four months of the first year would create significant challenges to the operation of the office. Even after returning from the academy, they would have to spend several months going through the field training and evaluation program, working as a police officer to become fully certified. It is fair to ask how much time they could spend serving as sheriff during that first year in office, as opposed to time spent trying to become qualified to do the job of sheriff.

I have been certified as an Oregon police officer for over three decades. I also have corrections certification. Additionally, there are different levels of certification through DPSST one can obtain – basic, intermediate, advanced, supervisory, management and executive. They reflect the person’s education, experience and leadership level within the public safety community. I hold the highest levels of certification (executive) in both police and corrections disciplines. If a person became sheriff without first becoming police certified, at best they would earn the basic police certification in the first year, and then could earn other certifications over the course of additional years.

Such a large, diverse organization requires a sheriff with executive experience and expertise in multiple disciplines to best grasp the unique challenges and work of each division. As a sheriff with experience at multiple executive command level assignments at the sheriff’s office, I count myself lucky to lead a large group of professionals across our broad range of services who work hard to keep our community safe. These professionals are key to our success, such as lowering our crime rate, maintaining rigorous professional accreditation standards, providing world-class training, meeting challenges head-on, and building supportive relationships with community and agency partners. They deserve a sheriff with the experience to understand and appreciate their contributions across our entire organization.

Pat

My Thoughts on Veterans Day

 

Evenings in Baghdad are cold in February. One night after walking to the small post exchange after dinner, the chill in the air had me moving quickly back to Squadron to help finish plans for the next day’s mission. Then the alarm from the AN/TPQ-36 radar sounded. This alarm provides about eight seconds notice before what’s flying through the air lands somewhere on base. In this case, 107mm mortars. Sprinting, I and about 10 other Soldiers converged on a nearby, small concrete bunker. Inside the bunker, as nearby explosions interrupted the noise of the radar’s continuous alarm, all rank and formality was lost to relief on being inside the bunker. Different units, jobs, and rank meant most of us didn’t know each other. But in the darkness, experiencing together what felt like a close call, we shared cigarettes, stories, and jokes until the “all clear” signal. As quickly as we had converged and grown close in the moment, we scattered into the night to finish the day’s work.

Airborne School, 1990

As other Veterans know, people come to the military from all corners of our country and become a team where you learn about, and rely on, people very different from you. One reason I enjoyed serving in the United States Army was because I met, worked, and connected with people I might never have met otherwise. While not always easy at first, my experience proved time and again our diversity made us stronger and better problem solvers. We have more in common than not. Whether in training or real-world mission, the Army culture, leaders and Soldiers brought us together to accomplish the mission we were called upon to complete.

The connection I felt with the other Soldiers in the bunker that night got me through that experience and other moments like it until it was time to come home. A Veteran’s homecoming is wonderful, but can also be fraught, as we can lose that sense of connection, as well as bringing with us memories and consequences of our experiences.

If you or a Veteran you know feels disconnected, depressed, overwhelmed, or hopeless, please reach out to friends, family, professionals. Support is available:

  • VA’s Veteran’s Crisis Line (talk): 800-273-8255
  • VA’s Veteran’s Crisis Line (text): 838255
  • VA’s Veteran’s Crisis Line (online chat): VeteransCrisisLine.net/Chat
  • Lines for Life Military Helpline (talk): 888-457-4838
  • Lines for Life Military Helpline (text): 839863

Pat