News and Press Releases
CCSO Marine Patrol Still Afloat PDF Print E-mail
Saturday, 04 July 2009 00:13

Zapped by budget cuts that have given a swiss-cheese appearance to his patrol schedule, Sheriff Jeff Dickerson has announced one bright spot: An enhanced marine patrol schedule that will put an extra deputy on the Columbia River during the summer months.

 

"We are excited to be able to access money from the Oregon State Marine Board to add a seasonal deputy on the water," the sheriff said. "Columbia County has the largest share of the Columbia River of any county in Oregon, and for the first time in many years, we will have more than just two sworn deputies out there."

 

Marine Board money funds 80 percent of the three deputies and the cost to put them in boats on county waterways. The sheriff is committed to building a bigger presence in the water as the summer months roll into the fall.

 

Waterways patrolled by the deputies will include the Multnomah Channel and the Columbia River within Columbia County.  Their focus will be on safety and the deterrence and detection of violations that threaten boating safety. There are opportunities for volunteers (both sworn reserves and non-sworn volunteers) to assist the sheriff's office with its mission on the water. Those interested in volunteering in partnership with the sheriff can call volunteer coordinator Richard Egemo at (503) 366-4615.

Last Updated on Saturday, 04 July 2009 00:16
 
Columbia County restores deputy positions by 50% PDF Print E-mail
Monday, 29 June 2009 17:45
In an effort to minimize the impact of a staggering budget reduction from last year, Columbia County Sheriff Jeff Dickerson and the Board of County Commissioners have agreed to an expenditure of contingency money that will restore five enforcement positions into the coming year’s budget.
 
“This won’t bring us up to where we were before the budget cuts,” Dickerson said, “but it definitely will give us more options and additional resources to handle our emergency calls.” The sheriff said three general law positions and 2.4 river patrol positions have been added back to the budget through county money and state Marine Board funds.
 
The marine board money will be used to put two deputies back on the Columbia River and will also allow the sheriff to place an additional seasonal deputy on the water as well. The seasonal deputy position will be filled July through September and May through June next year. An additional position on Sauvie Island might also be filled, if enough money can be found with state help.  Negotiations with the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife should determine if that position will be filled in coming weeks.
 
The five enforcement deputies will augment the three deputies who were left after budget cuts threatened the layoff of 10 enforcement deputies earlier last month. After the smoke clears, half of the sheriff’s enforcement division will remain.
 
“We’re very pleased by the Board’s decision to bring some deputies back,” Dickerson said. “It’s a one-year reprieve on the death blow dealt to us this spring by budget cuts and a major loss of revenue from jail boarding fees. I am hoping it will be a down payment on a brighter outlook for the sheriff’s office in the future.”
 
The sheriff said the outlook for handling emergency calls was bolstered mightily by the Board’s decision to restore the positions.
 
“With only three enforcement deputies, we were not going to be able to handle all the emergencies, let alone the non-emergency calls we take daily,” he said.  “This increases the likelihood of our response to emergencies as they happen, with eight deputies now available for emergencies.”
 
Two of those eight will have primary patrol functions on the water, but could be called out on overtime for emergency situations anywhere in the county.  The sheriff believes that if citizens are going to support a future mechanism for bringing dedicated funding to the sheriff’s office, that the county must explore every opportunity to fund as many positions as possible with general fund dollars.
 
“If we’re doing everything we can to meet the peoples’ needs with their present tax dollars, then I feel comfortable asking voters if they are willing to give a little more to support law enforcement in the county,” Dickerson said. “We are not ready to ask that question now.  But this effort by the commissioners to rescue some positions with scarce contingency money gives voters a chance to see the limits of what the county believes it can do to provide law enforcement services to the roughly 50,000 citizens who call Columbia County their home. Perhaps later, once voters see how we’ve responded to this crisis, they will be ready to support further investment in the sheriff’s office.  Either way, we are committed to providing the best service possible with the resources we have.”
 
The restored positions are the good news for the sheriff’s office. The bad news is that four positions in the jail and five positions in enforcement still are on the chopping block.  The sheriff’s office will still be working with skeleton crews in both corrections and enforcement.
 
Additionally, expectations for the succeeding year’s budget are not promising. The Board of County Commissioners is expected to convene a task force soon that will look at future funding options for the sheriff’s office.
 
Jail Boarding Fee Revenue Reductions Mean Severe Cuts to Columbia County Sheriff PDF Print E-mail
Thursday, 28 May 2009 19:50

The loss of more than $1 million in anticipated revenue from Jail Bed Boarding fees has put the Columbia County Sheriff’s Office in crisis mode.


A decision by the U.S. Marshal in Portland to divert a large portion of the current bed usage in Columbia County to Multnomah County means that Columbia County Sheriff Jeff Dickerson must deal with a $1.2 million dollar shortfall in expected revenue.


“The combination of a 17 percent cut in general fund spending from last year and the anticipated reduction in federal prisoners’ boarding fees spells disaster for our Enforcement Division,” Sheriff Jeff Dickerson said.


The combined cuts and reduction in revenue will mean the Sheriff will lose 14 positions  – four in the jail and ten on the road and on the river. Three additional part-time positions will be eliminated.  Also included in the reductions is the elimination of the Columbia County Marine Patrol program, a school resource officer position, and a contract position with the state fish and wildlife department to provide law enforcement services on Sauvie Island.


“We will place a greater burden on our corrections deputies,” Dickerson said, “to cover for the loss of the technicians who currently run our control room in the jail. But the skeleton crew we will have left to patrol our county will not be able to handle the call load.


“We will be forced to prioritize our responses.  Only the most serious of crimes will generally be investigated. Our ability to respond to emergencies as they happen has been fatally compromised.”


The budget nightmare began for the Sheriff’s Office this spring when the Sheriff was given a budget significantly lower than that which was approved last year.  The county’s general fund had 5 percent less this year from last year, but the Sheriff’s Office share of the budget cutting was set at over 17 percent. 


The sheriff pinned the agency’s hope to avoid layoffs on a forecast of $1.8 million  in federal jail boarding fees after the agency secured a 20% increase in those fees. The Sheriff said the jail will bring in approximately $1.5 million from boarding fees in the current fiscal year. 


Next year’s boarding fees were looked to as a salve for the Sheriff’s funding wounds, but a perfect storm was brewing on the horizon that now has left CCSO in deep trouble.  The combination of a reduction in federal arrests, the breaking of a log jam in getting federal detainees to other facilities around the country, and the inking of a deal between the U.S. Marshals Service and Multnomah County to increase the boarding numbers for federal detainees has brought Columbia County to the precipice.


“We housed about 60 federal detainees per day in the last year, Dickerson said. “I have been assured by a representative of the Marshals that those numbers are going to fall dramatically.”


A total of 14 Columbia County Sheriff’s Office employees received notice today of the pending layoffs, which are set to take effect August 1. Sheriff Dickerson said the layoffs are one of the hardest things he has ever had to do.


“I believe citizens expect their sheriff to provide the public safety services I have had to cut today,” he said. “State law requires that I staff the jail, attend to the directions of the courts, process civil papers and provide search and rescue capabilities in the county. With all the cuts from the county and the federal government, the only real place I could cut was in the very services many constituents expect me to deliver first.


“I will continue to look to the future and a possible funding source to provide dedicated funding to the sheriff’s office.  In these economic times, that solution still seems out there a ways.  For now, these are very dark days for our county."

Last Updated on Thursday, 28 May 2009 19:53
 
Sheriff's Office Budget Will Result in Fewer Walk-in Hours PDF Print E-mail
Monday, 18 May 2009 17:04
Due to budget cuts looming ahead for the Columbia County Sheriff's Office, Sheriff Jeff Dickerson has announced a reduction of service hours at the walk-in window beginning in June.
 

"In an effort to help address a 17.67 percent reduction in general fund revenue that is dedicated our budget, we will close the front office four hours per week on Fridays, beginning Friday, June 5," Sheriff Dickerson said. Countywide, general fund revenue is down about 5 percent, but the Sheriff's Office share of that reduction is more than three times that amount.
 

"We represent the biggest expenditure of general fund dollars," Dickerson acknowledged, "If the budget has huge gaps in it, we are the place they are going to cut."
 

Additional staffing in the front office and a needed civil deputy position have been cut from the sheriff's original budget request this spring, making the current crush of civil papers and criminal reports that much harder to tackle, the sheriff said. With the addition of employee furloughs looming as a partial solution to county funding woes, the strain on the sheriff's front office make the move to reduced hours at the front window a necessary choice.
 

"So much doesn't get done in the hours we have now," Dickerson said. "In order to manage the increase in reports and civil papers as well as the potential loss of employee hours, we believe we must reduce the service at the window."
 

The Sheriff's new business hours (which will be posted online) will be 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Thursday and 8 a.m. to noon on Fridays.  Jail Visitation hours in the afternoons on Friday will be handled through the Jail directly, as they are during holidays and the weekend.
 

"Reduction of hours of service is not where I want to go," Dickerson said. "It's where we're being lead, with little option.  This may only be the beginning of some difficult choices in the future, but no matter what, we will continue to strive to deliver the best service possible."
Last Updated on Monday, 18 May 2009 17:09
 
SEARCH and RESCUE HOLDS ANNUAL TRAINING PDF Print E-mail
Monday, 18 May 2009 11:57

On May 16 and 17,  the Columbia County Sheriff's Search and Rescue team held its annual re-certification overnighter at Camp Wilkerson.  Thirty team members received their state certification by showing knowledge and proficiency in land navigation/GPS, tracking, search techniques, wilderness first aid, shelter and fire building, as well as helicopter safety.

 
Members had to carry a 130 lb role player in a stoke through an obstacle course and their fires had to be built without the use of matches or lighters.  Shelters were built with only items that the members carried in their backpacks and had to be constructed so that it was visible to searchers and could keep the 4 person team dry and warm. There was also a mock incident command post in place with an incident action plan for guidance.  Team members had to complete 30 hours of additional training and had to take a state exam before  receiving their certificates.

 
The Columbia County Search and Rescue is a 501C3 non-profit group consisting of volunteer  residents from Columbia County.  All members must by at least 18 years old and be able to pass a background check prior to the start of the training. The team is dispatched through the Sheriff’s Office and is under the guidance of Undersheriff Andy Moyer. Team members will be receiving additional training throughout the calendar year and will begin the re-certification process next January.

 
If you are interested in becoming a member of the Columbia County Search and Rescue you can come by the Sheriff’s Office and pick up an application or contact Ron Hermo or Terri Etter at 503-366-4611.

Search and Rescue Team

Last Updated on Monday, 18 May 2009 12:10
 
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