Sheriff Spotlight: Coos County Sheriff Craig Zanni

He’s a history buff, a movie connoisseur, husband, father, grandfather and the Coos County Sheriff. Although Sheriff Craig Zanni is a fourth-generation law enforcement officer, he never expected to work in public safety, let alone serve in the Coos County Sheriff’s Office for nearly four decades.

Sheriff Zanni has held numerous positions within the Coos County Sheriff’s Office, including Patrol Deputy, Detective Sergeant and Commander of the Investigation Section. His enthusiasm, knowledge and dedication to those within the community is evident. Learn more about Sheriff Zanni in our latest interview.

How did you start your career in law enforcement?

I grew up in a family full of law enforcement officers, but I was never interested. In fact, after high school I enrolled in the United State Army Non-Commissioned Officer Academy and served in the Army National Guard for several years. Immediately following my time in the service, I tried a variety of jobs, first working at a production facility and then within the real estate space, but none of them seemed a good fit. And then one day, out of nowhere, I decided to be a police officer.

I began my career in California as a cop before moving to become a Deputy Constable and then Reserve Deputy Sheriff in Siskiyou County. In February of 1977, I came to Coos County and never looked back.

Former Sheriff Andrew Jackson approached me in 2010, as he was deciding to run for county commissioner. Sheriff Jackson expressed the importance of finding someone with a history and a commitment to Coos County and the sheriff’s office to fill his position. I was honored to be considered and elected.

What are some of the challenges facing Coos County?

Unfortunately, drug and spousal abuse continue to be some of the larger issues our office is fighting against. Coos County has the third lowest property tax rate in the state and is one of the poorer areas in the Oregon. We are currently trying to identify sustainable funding avenues to support public safety infrastructure that addresses our community’s needs.

Despite the tight budget, our office has been able to operate extremely efficiently. I am proud to say that we have expanded the number of patrol deputies without a significant increase to our budget. These extra deputies are hard at work within the community.

What makes the Coos County Sheriffs’ Office special?

We have created a very selfless work environment at the office. Each person is wholly invested in the safety of the county and will go out of their way to help one another. One instance that epitomizes this dedication occurred in our dispatch department. Roughly half of the dispatch staff were retiring, and the remaining staff members went an entire year without spending a single hour of sick time. Their commitment to the county is unmatched.

Additionally, our office is committed to upholding Sir Robert Peel’s nine tenants of civilian law enforcement. Staff members understand that law enforcement officers are the public and the public are law enforcement officers. The only difference is that we are paid to devote our entire attention to keeping the community safe.

What have you learned during your career in law enforcement?

Most people in the community want to support their local law enforcement teams, and they will support you if you serve appropriately, fairly and honestly. For example, two neighbors were engaged in a property dispute and they came to me with the land grant. I told them that I was not a lawyer, but that it looked like Neighbor A actually did not own the land in question. As you can imagine, this was hard for him to hear and he became extremely upset. A month ago, Neighbor A came back in to my office to ask for advice on another issue. When I told him that I was not an expert on this topic, Neighbor A said, “Yes, but you have always been honest and fair.”

Being in law enforcement is like being in a fishbowl – everyone is always looking to you. We must hold ourselves to a higher standard and exemplify model behavior. When you do this and treat everyone fairly, with respect and act honestly, you will have the community’s support – even if they don’t always like the answer you give them.

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