VALE – Brian Wolfe believes his experience and dedication qualify him to be reelected as Malheur County sheriff in May.
Casey Walker, a former sheriff’s deputy and current Ontario Police Department officer, said he believes he can provide the service county citizens deserve if he is elected sheriff.
Both men are gearing up to start their campaigns for the county’s top law enforcement slot, and Walker said change is needed at the sheriff’s office. The deadline to file to run for the position is March 10.
“There needs to be better service,” said Walker.
Walker previously worked for the sheriff’s office for 18 years, leaving to join the city agency two years ago.
Walker said that as sheriff he would work to create 24-hour patrols for the county. Now deputies are available for calls 22 hours of the day.
“I think they (county residents) are not getting the service they deserve. With 24-hour coverage it will incorporate a lot of the admin (personnel) working together as opposed to the way things are done now,” said Walker.
Walker said he would put a renewed emphasis on nuisance ordinance enforcement across the county and focus on raising the sheriff’s office profile at schools.
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Walker, who serves as a school resource officer, said “there needs to be a better way to get our kids and our law enforcement together.”
“Having a school resource officer is definitely the way to go. If you can have one great, but if you can’t, our guys need to be in the schools more, letting them know we are not the bad guy,” he said.
Walker, who also ran for sheriff as a write-in candidate in 2016, said he has a “few ideas” about the county’s dispatch center.
“We have a lot of people who work dispatch who work long, long hours. I just think we need a bigger focus on them and I have some ideas about what I want to do,” said Walker.
He declined to go into detail, saying he is still ironing out the details.
Walker said his two-year stint with Ontario police helped him see how a “well-oiled machine” works.
“The leadership, the brotherhood, everything is just better. That is something I want to bring to the table,” said Walker.
Walker, who was born in Nyssa, said he believes he has “a good chance” to win.
Walker said he does not plan to take a leave of absence from his post with the Ontario Police Department while he campaigns for the sheriff’s slot.
“I have a lot of support and I think if people look at this with open eyes, I think there have been some things that have gone on and I don’t think there are a lot of people happy,” said Walker.
Wolfe, elected sheriff in 2011, said he agrees with Walker that 24-hour coverage is essential.
“We would love 24-hours but that comes with a cost,” Wolfe said.
He said by “looking at it and if you don’t understand the full dynamics of the sheriff’s office, it is easy to say we could move a lieutenant or a sergeant or a sheriff or undersheriff to cover those shifts and get to 24 hours.
“But there are other duties and responsibilities that those positons hold that would go undone,” he said.
The sheriff’s office now carries 63 total employees on its roster including 19 deputies assigned to patrol and other duties such as ordinance enforcement.
Wolfe said he and his employees “believe in providing a service in a timely manner.”
“That doesn’t mean sometimes you won’t have to wait, realizing the resources we have. If we have one deputy on and they are in Annex and you are in Brogan, it will take a bit to get there,” said Wolfe.
Wolfe said he spearheaded several of new initiatives that helped the sheriff’s office, including the creation of 24-member citizen advisory board.
“That’s important because we get to hear from citizens all the time but with this committee with people from around the county we get to use it as a sounding board. We get to run ideas by them,” said Wolfe.
Wolfe said he did extend the sheriff’s office coverage hours during his tenure, created a cold case team to investigate unsolved crimes in the county and formed a partnership with Lifeways, a private mental health organization in Ontario.
The partnership with Lifeways is important, said Wolfe.
“That’s because our jails and prisons in the U.S. are filled with people that are in a mental health crisis,” said Wolfe.
Wolfe said he has a “great team that works hard at serving the people of Malheur County.”
“I genuinely care about Malheur County and the people of the county,” said Wolfe.
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