John Bishop, OSSA Executive Director & Retired Curry County Sheriff
Winter 2016 – Wow, where did the year 2016 go? At this time of year, we always look back and see what we have accomplished or what we wished we would have accomplished in the past year. As I write this, we have just returned from our annual conference where we discuss these issues and what lies ahead. You will see stories in this edition about the conference and our awards banquet.
As you may recall, the sheriffs began 2016 with the Malheur Refuge incident. This was something we had never had to face before and the 41 days were extremely taxing on all of the sheriff’s offices. This was a very complex problem with lasting issues and feelings from our citizens, which were on both sides of the issue. The sheriffs, however, are problem-solvers and were able to complete the mission. Sheriff Dave Ward and Sheriff Brian Wolfe did an outstanding job, as well as all the sheriffs who took time out of their county to help the citizens of Harney County feel safe in their community while the federal agencies handled the refuge standoff. All the sheriffs and staff should be extremely proud of how they handled this incident. As we have stated in the past, we may agree with some of the complaints the occupiers had, but we never will condone the use of violence or threats of violence to our citizens.
The Oregon State Sheriffs’ Association office has been going through a remodel and repairs this year, and we are almost complete. This remodel will allow us to have a new museum with several interesting artifacts, a Sheriffs Memorial for all of the sheriffs and deputies who have died in the line of duty, as well as a professional office building. The staff here at OSSA is continuing to find ways to save money and modernize our business practices, all in support of our sheriffs and their deputies. OSSA has stepped up our college sponsorships and council training. In 2017 the Deputies Academy, Command Council, and the New Sheriff’s Institute will be in addition to our conferences with Enforcement, Search and Rescue, Civil, Concealed Handgun License (CHL), Jail and Community Corrections Councils. OSSA also helps sponsor many other events and charities in the state of Oregon.
OSSA’s relationship with our partners has never been better. The Department of Public Safety Standards and Training, Association of Counties, the Oregon State Police, the Criminal Justice Commission, and many others work hand in hand with OSSA in the goal of making all Oregon citizens, as well as our visitors, as safe as we can, while preserving our quality of life that we enjoy.
While we have accomplished a lot in 2016, we have some very big challenges coming in 2017. The sheriffs enjoy a good working relationship with our local federal partners. However, there are issues coming out of Washington D.C. which may affect our communities. A possible big issue is an idea of setting aside huge tracts of land for monuments. These issues could split communities, and we could have civil unrest, ending up with an issue similar to the Refuge. The sheriffs realize this and are working diligently with our partners to keep this from happening. The sheriffs when together, have a significant voice and it is critical for OSSA to be that voice when issues such as this come to our communities. Please know that we are working on these types of issues almost daily and trying to maneuver through them with the help of our partners mentioned above. In 2017 we will also be faced with a new legislative session in Salem. Items on the table include racial profiling, data collection, drug laws, firearms, domestic violence and many others. OSSA and our legislative council chaired by Sheriff Jason Myers, along with our lobbyist Kevin Campbell have done and will continue to do, an outstanding job in maneuvering through these difficult challenges, considering some of the feelings toward law enforcement/public safety coming out of the capitol building.
2016 was an interesting year and taxed us probably as we have never been taxed before, and we see significant challenges ahead. However, rest assured, your sheriffs are problem-solvers, and we are completely dedicated to solving these issues and to be your “Conservators of the Peace.” God bless our sheriffs and their deputies, and God bless the United States of America.