Emergency head returns to Crook

Sheriff’s Office struggling to hire more patrol deputies

By Rachael Scarborough King / The Bulletin
Published: January 14. 2007 5:00AM PST

PRINEVILLE – The Crook County Sheriff’s Office has filled a position overseeing emergency services with a familiar face – former Emergency Management Coordinator Brandon Smith, who left the department a few months ago and returned last week.

Smith, a nine-year veteran of the Sheriff’s Office, will be in charge of organizing the county’s emergency response plans and running its search and rescue operation.

The move will take pressure off the department by having a staff member dedicated to emergency management.

Crook County Sheriff Rodd Clark said the decision was a “no-brainer” because Smith has so much experience in the role.

“He’s the person who really put our emergency management (and) search and rescue coordination program together for us, and is probably the most knowledgeable person to put in the position, so we seized upon the opportunity,” Clark said.

Smith said that about 1 1/2 years ago he decided to move from the emergency management position to a patrol deputy position. Then he moved to the Albany Police Department for a couple of months before returning to Crook County. He is currently on vacation and will be back in the Sheriff’s Office full time in about 10 days.

“I missed working in search and rescue – it’s a lot of fun,” Smith said. “For the short time I was away I missed working in the community and didn’t realize how much I enjoyed being a member of Prineville or a member of that community.”

Smith said that the “best part” of the job is the challenge of coordinating the many different groups that work together in an emergency.

“I want to work hard on getting our emergency operations plan together and really working hard on melding the relationship between all these government groups that aren’t used to working together, but bringing them together and getting them to work together because that’s what they do in an emergency, (even though) they may not do that in day-to-day business,” he said.

Sgt. Russ Wright has been filling in as emergency management coordinator as well as fulfilling patrol responsibilities. Clark said that bringing back Smith helps the Sheriff’s Office because it means it does not have to train a new hire.

Clark said the office had advertised for the position and received a few applications, but staff had not begun evaluating them yet.

The department is still in the process of filling two open sheriff’s deputy spots.

The hiring process has taken longer than he anticipated, Clark said.

Two patrol deputy positions that opened up last summer have been filled, but two others that Crook County added in order to bring the total number of deputies up to 10 are still open, although an offer has been made on one of them.

“We’re having a difficult time, like most of the law enforcement agencies are right now, finding qualified people to fill police positions,” he said. “That hasn’t always been the case, but in recent years that seems to be more and more difficult. The job market’s pretty strong in Central Oregon right now, so people are finding different things to do.”

Clark said the Crook County Sheriff’s Office pays about $400 to $600 less per month than most other agencies in the region, which makes hiring and retaining officers difficult. Right now, he is hoping to hire the first-ever female patrol deputy for the office.

One of the three finalists for the open position is a woman, he said, but only three women applied for the two jobs out of almost 30 entries.

“I suppose all other things being equal we would love to offer her the position,” he said. “It’s a matter of fact that in this world you need female deputies … Traditionally it’s been a more male-dominated profession, but in today’s world that’s not true anymore.”

The fact that the district is rural and deputies are often out by themselves may work against the Sheriff’s Office in hiring both women and men, he said.

“If we hire this time it will be the first time we’ve hire (a woman) for patrol, and we’re pretty excited about it if that happens,” Clark said.

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