Capt. Derrick Peterson of the Multnomah County Sheriff’s Office, who announced his bid to succeed outgoing Sheriff Mike Reese on Sept. 10, does not have a law enforcement certification, WW has learned.
Peterson says that’s because Reese and a former supervisor quashed his chance to earn his law enforcement certification.
Peterson, who has spent the past three decades working in the two county jails, received his corrections certification in 1988, state records show. He has not undergone the police academy basic training required to be certified in law enforcement.
The law enforcement component is significant: State rules dictate a sheriff must earn law enforcement certification through the Department of Public Safety Standards & Training within one year of taking office. Failing to obtain his law enforcement certification in time was why Sheriff Bob Skipper resigned in 2009.
Peterson says former Sheriff Dan Staton personally selected him to pursue his dual certification, which requires nearly four months at the training academy.
“Very few people got a chance to do that,” Peterson says. “If you’re identified to do that, it’s a very special thing because you’re pulling someone offline to go for 17 weeks. And [Staton] felt like it was worth it for a person like me to be able to go and have that opportunity.”
Shortly after Staton resigned and appointed Reese sheriff in 2016, Peterson alleges, chief of corrections Mike Shults called Peterson to relay a message from the sheriff.
“The essence of the conversation was that if I chose to go to the academy, he would demote me to lieutenant and put me on the graveyard [shift],” Peterson says. “He said Sheriff Reese saw that I was on the list to go to the academy and was asking why.”
Reese denies the allegations.
“I never had a conversation with Mike Shults about Derrick Peterson attending the DPSST police academy or being demoted if he ever attended the police academy,” Reese said in a statement Tuesday. “In fact, when Derrick Peterson was chief deputy of the Corrections Facilities Division, I told him I would support him attending the police academy.”
Shults is no longer employed with Multnomah County. State records show he retired from the sheriff’s office in November 2017 and joined the Deschutes County Sheriff’s Office the following month.
Peterson, who is Black, says he is not sure why sheriff’s office leadership would seek to stymie his training academy opportunities.
“All I can tell you is, in my career, I’ve had to deal with adversity, sometimes more than others,” Peterson says. “So when you look at the spectrum of command staff that had the opportunity to go to the academy without repercussions, without having to give up their rank, I was the only minority—as far as when I look at that lens—that didn’t get that opportunity and was asked to give up something of great value that I had earned over the years. I don’t know what that was about. I can’t necessarily speculate. But that lens doesn’t look good.”
Should he be elected, Peterson says he intends to obtain his law enforcement certification within the allotted one-year period. He would effectively have a dual certification in corrections and law enforcement.
It is relatively rare for sheriff’s office staff to be dual certified.
In fact, Peterson’s opponent, Undersheriff Nicole Morrisey O’Donnell, flagged this credential in her campaign announcement earlier this month, which noted that she is “one of the few members of the Multnomah County Sheriff’s Office who holds dual certification in police and corrections and has continued leadership and development training in both disciplines.”
County election records show that Morrisey O’Donnell attended the state’s basic corrections training academy in 1997. Then from January to May 2016, elections records show, she attended the basic training police academy, earning her law enforcement credential.
In 2019, Reese selected Morrisey O’Donnell to be his second-in-command. Two years later, he appointed her as undersheriff, the first woman to hold that title in Multnomah County. The county’s press release from 2019 described a shared vision between Morrisey O’Donnell and Reese. It also noted her dual certification.
County commissioners, who voted unanimously to approve Morrisey O’Donnell’s appointment as second-in-command, called her “an excellent pick” who has “a wealth of experience” and “really special skills,” according to the press release.
“It is not a comfortable position for you to have us oozing all this gratitude, but thank you and thank you, Sheriff Reese,” County Chair Deborah Kafoury said during the vote, according to the county’s press release.
Correction: An earlier version of this story incorrectly stated that Morrisey O’Donnell was appointed as undersheriff in 2019. She was appointed to second-in-command in 2019, and undersheriff in 2021.