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Veteran law enforcement officer takes the helm of Ontario station of Oregon State Police

ONTARIO – For Kurt Marvin, the appeal of his job as the new commander of the Oregon State Police station is its variety.

“It is something different every day. You never know what will come next. It’s not just waiting for the clock to tick 5 o’clock to go home,” said Marvin.

Marvin, promoted to lieutenant in June, replaces former state police station commander, Lt. Mark Duncan, who retired.

Marvin said he is excited about his new role.

“It is a lot of the same stuff I was doing before but more of it,” he said.

A 22-year law enforcement veteran, Marvin joined the Oregon State Police in 2008 after a stint with the Washington County Sheriff’s Office in Idaho. He was promoted to patrol sergeant in 2012. He’s spent his whole state police career at the Ontario station, a circumstance he considers to be an advantage.

Before his promotion his focus rested entirely on the Ontario office. Now he is overseeing state police in Ontario, Burns and John Day. He manages 26 people stretched over 10,0000 square miles and 350 miles of state highway. “We are a pretty tight-knit group. We have a really good team. My staff is what makes our force what it is,” he said.

He said his work schedule can fluctuate.

 “There is administrative stuff that needs to get done, but you also have the operations side of it. If a critical incident occurs in the middle of the late-night hours you have to be flexible,” said Marvin. 

Marvin, 43, said he and his troopers make a difference on a regular basis “Mostly by helping people in different ways. All the way from a critical accident, like someone is in a crash and getting them help, to a victim of a crime, getting them away from the crime and getting the help they need.”

A person who enjoys the outdoors – he likes to hunt and fish – Marvin said another great thing

Marvin said the diversity that comes with his job motivates him. Marvin said “you never know what is coming next.”

“So that keeps you on your toes,” he said.

Marvin said he always expected to work in some type of emergency service agency. As a youth he watched his dad serve as a Weiser volunteer firefighter and that dedication to community service rubbed off.

At 18, Marvin acquired his emergency medical technician license. He then attended Treasure Valley Community College before he decided to go to work at the Washington County’s Sheriff’s Office as a dispatcher.

Marvin takes over the top slot in Ontario during an unusual time for law enforcement. New laws in Oregon – including Ballot Measure 110 which reduced penalties for personal possession of some illegal narcotics – have made the job his troopers perform more difficult.

“The laws are becoming more restrictive for law enforcement. It changes the way we do business,” said Marvin.

Marvin used the example of a trooper pulling a vehicle over late at night because its headlight is out. In the past, such encounters could lead police to discover other crimes – such as an outstanding warrant.

A law passed in 2022, though, makes such stops illegal. The law prevents police from initiating a traffic stop for such reasons as a broken headlight or taillight.

Influence from popular culture also impacts police, he said.

“When I started jobs were scarce. The way the world is today, no one wants to come work and do what we do. It is a challenging job,” he said.

His troopers are fortunate, said Marvin, because Malheur County generally supports law enforcement.

“Malheur County is still a great place to work,” he said.

Marvin said he believes public perception of the Oregon State Police is sometimes skewed.

“People who have never seen what we’ve seen or been to the crashes we see, until you’ve been there you just don’t understand what we do,” he said.

Misconceptions also linger regarding enforcing speed limits, he said.

“People think we are just generating revenue. But our troopers look at it like, if I don’t stop that car doing 100 miles an hour, and down the interstate they end up killing someone, I will carry that guilt,” he said.

Marvin said his office continues to confront the illegal narcotics trade.

“Fentanyl is a big problem. Drugs in general are a big problem. They are related to all other crimes,” he said.

Yet he said is optimistic. The re-establishment of the High Desert Drug Task Force is a step in the right direction, he said.

“We are on the right track with the task force,” he said.

News tip? Contact reporter Pat Caldwell at [email protected]

Previous coverage:

State police leader in Ontario ready to wrap up 30-year career

Active shooter hoax in Ontario triggers rapid police response

New drug task force aims to curb county’s illegal narcotics trade

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