Crook’s sheriff hears citizens’ concerns

By Rachael Scarborough King / The Bulletin
Published: June 15. 2007 5:00AM PST

PRINEVILLE — About 30 people turned out for a Crook County Sheriff’s Office town hall meeting Thursday night, but there was little discussion of Sheriff Rodd Clark’s ongoing legal woes.

The meeting, which took place at the Juniper Canyon Fire Hall south of Prineville, was the fourth and final town hall this week. The sheriff, undersheriff and several deputies took the opportunity to show off their two K-9 police dogs and answer questions from the Juniper Canyon residents in attendance.

Most of their concerns centered around perennial issues for the Sheriff’s Office like loose dogs, reckless drivers of off-road vehicles and how long it takes sheriff’s deputies to respond to calls.

“We basically believe it’s important to communicate with the community that we serve, and we generally don’t get a chance to meet with you unless you have a problem,” Clark said at the beginning of the meeting.

Clark is currently under indictment for a felony count of undue influence and a misdemeanor count of official misconduct, stemming from allegations that he threatened to fire any Sheriff’s Office employees who ran against him in the 2006 primary election. Clark pleaded not guilty to the charges at his arraignment last week and has said he will remain in office. A trial date has not yet been set.

But at Thursday night’s meeting, the stars of the show were the two police dogs, bloodhound Chase and German shepherd Dar. Two-year-old Dar is a new addition to the county’s law enforcement team who, along with his handler Deputy Brad Wright, is trained to track suspects.

“Our goal was really to put one (patrol dog) in place, try it for a period of time, see what the expenses are, and then determine is it more cost effective to put another officer in the field or put two or three dogs, because officers can be more independent when they have their backup with them,” Clark said.

The second dog, Chase, is used in search and rescue operations in the county.

At the end of the hour-long session, Undersheriff Jim Hensley reminded the residents that they can call him personally at the Sheriff’s Office if they have concerns about law enforcement in the area.

“You folks, you are our eyes and ears — we can’t do the job without you,” Hensley said.

After the meeting, Hensley said that the three previous town halls this week — which were held in various geographic areas of the county — had attracted about 60 people. Hensley said that the questions brought up at the Juniper Canyon meeting were fairly typical, and no one had raised questions at the previous sessions about Clark’s legal problems.

April Miller, a Juniper Canyon resident, said that her husband is a reserve deputy with the Sheriff’s Office and they usually attend the twice yearly town halls. Miller said she she is somewhat worried that Clark’s indictment will affect the county’s law enforcement.

“I personally get concerned that it takes away from his time for the things that he does for the community,” Miller said. “I have every faith in Rodd’s ability as a sheriff, but I just get concerned that things like that hinder him from having the time to do the things I know he wants to do.”

Jean Doty, another nearby resident, said Thursday night’s was the first Sheriff’s Office town hall she has attended. Doty said she has followed Clark’s case in the newspaper, but is not very familiar with the issues.

“A lot of people say he should step down, but I don’t think it would make that much difference around here,” Doty said.

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