January 13th, 2011 5:33 pm | by NIGEL JAQUISS News | Posted In: CLEAN UP, Politics, Cops and Courts

Clackamas County Panel Paints Dim View of Sheriff's Office

Clackamas County

The "Best Practices" report delivered earlier this week to Clackamas County commissioners on the county's troubled Sheriff's Office runs to 93 pages—and is well worth reading for anybody interested in why Clackamas County deputies have been in the news for committing crimes so often.

But if there are two points that capture the good old boys network in the Clackamas County Sheriff's Office, they are these:

"The system as currently structured does not appear to recognize the value of education," says the report, written by a panel headed by former Lake Oswego Mayor Judie Hammerstad.

Second, the agency's ability to monitor problem deputies is, to put it generously, ineffective:

"All complaints [received about CCSO personnel are] entered int a database that was developed in-house. This database has been used primarily as a data tracker, to ensure quality control regarding established investigative processes. The system is a decade old and as currently structured is not searchable," the report says. "Although relevant information is entered into the complaint database to track investigations, the information cannot be retrieved in any usable fashion."

The panel found CCSO's internal affairs operation, in addition to not being able to access the information it has, is woefully understaffed. Just one person handles oversight of a 450-person agency. "It is recommended that three additional positions be assigned to this unit," the report says.

In an agency run by a sheriff whose biggest campaign contributor is the deputies' union, an obvious question is whether the union's power contributes to lax hiring standards, ineffective disciplinary oversight, and myriad other shortcomings the panel identified.

Hammerstad says she and her colleagues examined the union's role and found the greatest room for improvement in the role of CCSO sergeants, who are both members of the deputies' union and supervisors of their peers. Hammerstad says she came to the conclusion that the shortcomings in oversight and procedures are largely unintentional.

"I think it's mainly neglect," she says. "I think they put priority on other things."
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