John Bishop, OSSA Executive Director & Retired Curry County SheriffSo here we are at the end of another year (2017); I guess the older we get, the faster the year seems to go by. Your sheriffs were kept very busy this year. Here are just a few highlights of the big issues we have tackled during the year.
Our first challenge was the 2017 legislative session. This year, according to many in the building, was the worst session that anyone could remember. The divisiveness of the parties, even within the parties, was as bad as we have ever seen it. The Democrats had the majorities, and they wanted to push their agendas through, regardless if it was good for public safety or not. In the beginning, most of the bills were not public safety friendly and would have hurt our ability to serve our citizens. While some of the bills had good intentions, the reality was a disaster, and other bills were just plain in-your-face prescriptive bills that would hamper law enforcement’s ability to do our job. As sheriffs and with the help of OSSA’s lobbyist, we set out to inform the legislative body how these bills would actually be applied and what could be done to make them better. We built relationships and took a helpful stance to work with them to understand what was needed and what would hurt our ability to protect our citizens. It was grueling, and many sheriffs and OSSA worked extremely hard. Marion County Sheriff Jason Myers and OSSA Contract Lobbyist Kevin Campbell should be commended for taking on the majority of this task. Not everyone was happy with every outcome, but from where we started to where we finished was light years in difference and mostly for the better. As I have said before, our victories right now are not getting our bills passed but keeping really bad bills from seeing the light of day. All of us will continue to work on these issues.
Another big issue was “immigration.” This issue has been and is still ongoing, as the state and federal governments are pushing agendas and laws from both sides, leaving the sheriffs in the middle. State law prohibits sheriffs from reporting certain things to the federal government. The federal government is trying to say we are refusing to cooperate. This is incorrect; we are following the laws set down by not only state courts but federal case law. Your sheriffs want these criminals off the street. The sheriffs are not in the immigration business, nor do we want to be. The sheriffs are in the public safety business, and we need to be able to help deport these illegals who pose a threat to our communities. This is a highly volatile, political, and very complicated issue that we are still dealing with today. The bottom line is for your sheriffs to be able to work effectively, some laws have to be changed, and others need to be withdrawn (both state and federal), but until this happens, we will continue to do our best to protect our communities.
So let’s move on into the year. Our counties had huge music festivals which brought in 20 to 30 thousand additional people into their communities. While this is a big workload for these counties, the festivals were a success. Visitors had a great time, and there was not a lot of criminal issues the sheriffs had to deal with. Sheriffs, working with the Forest Service, were tasked with dealing with the rainbow family coalition which decided to have their gathering for 2017 in Eastern Oregon. This event brought in thousands of people for several weeks.
Then we had the Symbiosis which brought in approximately 90,000 people, and these events led up to the total eclipse for Oregon which drew millions of visitors to the state. As the sheriffs were dealing with those events, the wildland fires and evacuations were up next, keeping numerous counties busy for several weeks. Moreover, we haven’t talked about the weather early in the year which destroyed buildings, shut major interstates downs for days, and effected day-to-day business. Then there were all of the political riots in the metropolitan areas.
All of these events were in addition to the day to day missions your sheriff’s office conducted. During the above-listed events, sheriffs from around the state sent additional resources to counties that needed more manpower, and we worked closely with our partners to keep our citizens as safe as possible. We all would like to thank you for your support this year, and we are standing ready for the challenges we will face in 2018.
God bless our sheriffs and their deputies, and God bless the United States of America.
Sheriff John Bishop (Retired)
OSSA Executive Director