Leadership in Public Safety
From our executive team to first line supervisors, we strive to empower leaders with clear objectives and grant them ownership with accountability for decision-making, refining our collective abilities along the way. We reinforce with supervisor leadership seminars and support outside leader development training. Opportunities in this knowledge area are growing and I look forward to bringing additional leader development programs in the future.
Recruiting and Retention
Sheriff’s Office professionals are problem solvers, made more effective when our team has varied backgrounds and experience. To better resemble our changing county demographics and cast a wider recruitment net to better serve you, we changed our in-house recruit process to use the “National Testing Network.” Also, we send recruitment teams to events like the Portland Women’s Expo, Fiesta en el Parque, Diversity Fair, Latino Career events, Beaverton and Portland Pride events, Oregon Women Veterans, other career fairs for those transitioning out of the military, and more. Recruit classes show these changes are making a difference.
Like many places in our region and beyond, it’s challenging to find and retain high quality people interested in a law enforcement field. These and other factors have produced high overtime rates in some areas, most notably our Jail. We have implemented several strategies and are exploring other improvements in this area.
A respectful workplace is important to me because it promotes professional communication, fairness, accepts diverse people and thought, is more engaging, productive and feels safe. My commitment to fostering a respectful workplace is why I personally instructed 16 Civility classes last year which included our expectations for work behaviors, and followed senior leader instruction in this area in preceding years. These classes, combined with providing multiple ways to report a complaint, thorough investigations in concert with Human Resources, and accountability outcomes based on facts are important elements to fostering a respectful workplace for everyone.
I made being fiscally responsible one of the Sheriff’s Office strategic goals. As a result, we work hard and are thoughtful about spending your tax dollars appropriately while ensuring our professionals are properly trained and equipped to serve you well and stay safe. Our Sheriff’s Office is one of the largest law enforcement agencies in the state with an annual budget over $125 million. By prioritizing fiscal discipline, we regularly come in under-budget. For the budget year ending in June, 2019, we returned about $7 million which helps the county’s beginning fund balance the following year. Noteworthy, these funds could not be used to increase Jail beds or create additional positions.
Strong Voter Support for District Patrol
Voters in the Enhanced Sheriff’s Patrol District renewed a policing levy by a strong 76% Yes vote in 2017, owing to our team’s effective police services at a reasonable cost to the District’s approximately 210,000 residents.
While I prioritize building community relationships, I am joined by many across our office equally engaged and committed. Examples include helping to plan and conduct numerous Bridge-Building events where regional law enforcement agencies and underrepresented communities come together to improve mutual understanding about how we can better serve our community and each other. Deputies are regular speakers at Community Participation Organization (CPO) meetings. School Resource Officer deputies partner closely with our kids and educators. Our law enforcement team in Aloha joins our friends at Aloha Business Association meetings.
While not a traditional law enforcement issue, homelessness is one of the biggest challenges of our time and needs our attention and big ideas. I have a unique perspective from my work on the Homeless Planning Advisory Committee, the Governor’s Alcohol and Drug Policy Commission, running a Jail, and from ongoing discussions with deputies who interact with homeless individuals in their work. Chronic homelessness intersects with addiction and mental illness. In Washington County we can reduce homelessness provided we make a commitment that equals the scope of this challenge, funded by significant public-private investments to increase integrated services. Big ideas and ongoing work to get this done include:
- Built-For-Zero is a national non-profit supported strategy with a goal to drive homelessness to a level where it’s rare and of short duration. This program is Washington County Housing’s #1 strategic priority and I support it. A generous grant has already been made to help energize this initiative and I look forward to discussing existing services that align with this strategy and will be supported by this effort.
- The voter-approved Metro Regional Housing Bond plans about 1,300 affordable housing units in Washington County. Of those units, about 100 units are planned to be permanent supportive housing which will provide housing for many who would otherwise be homeless, though funding for services remains a need.
- Supported by collaborative funders, the Corporation for Supportive Housing (CSH) recently led a Metro Area workgroup to develop a Regional Supportive Housing Impact Fund (RSHIF) strategic framework to leverage existing community funding to provide services, subsidies and assistance to keep people in homes and rapidly re-house people experiencing homelessness. The RSHIF was created under the umbrella of Health Share, a Community Care Organization. The strategy focuses on filling critical gaps (chronic homelessness for example), focusing on racial equity and healthy outcomes, and uses data to target future investments for the greatest impact. An early collaborative funder, Kaiser Permanente is investing $1.3 million in Washington County to provide permanent supportive housing for 80 homeless seniors who have a disability.
- In addition, I support HUD reentry grants to help justice-impacted individuals obtain housing to increase their chance to transition successfully from incarceration back into the community. I look forward to discussing other strategies around rent-assistance and community service value as important measures to address this challenge.
- A workable solution also involves emergency shelters with basic accommodations like food, restrooms, and showers, co-located with services to address addiction and mental health. Also, shelter services would help safeguard our growing number of seniors who are homeless until they can obtain housing.
While I am no expert in this area, like you, I am interested in solutions. Other ideas deserve consideration. Homelessness and its intersection with mental illness and addiction is a community risk factor we need to address more thoroughly, both locally and as a state with bold, creative initiatives. I look forward to discussing and exploring this more.