Sheriff’s Office to Expand Patrol Coverage

Polk County Sheriff Mark Garton is pleased to announce his office will expand patrol coverage from 10 hours per day to 20 hours per day. The increase in patrol coverage will begin January 10th. The hours of no direct patrol coverage took into consideration the historical call load of the office and the overall mission of the Sheriff’s Office. While the hours of non coverage will not be conveyed due to safety concerns, Sheriff Mark Garton states that even during the hours of no direct patrol coverage, his office will monitor those hours and immediately respond to calls for service if needed.

Since last May, the Polk County Sheriff’s Office has been in the hiring mode due to the passage of the Public Safety Levy. The passage of the levy allowed for the Sheriff’s Office to hire 12 patrol deputies and 5 corrections deputies. These positions had been eliminated over the years through budget reductions as a result of the loss of the O&C timber payments.

Since the passage of the levy the Sheriff’s Office has been steadily working on getting positions filled. Many factors go into consideration when hiring new deputy sheriffs. Prior to the public safety levy passing, the Sheriff’s Office estimated that it would take about 18 months to get back to a position where we could provide more than 10 hours of patrol coverage. Hiring a deputy for either patrol or corrections is a very involved and lengthy process. From the initial recruitment, to written and physical fitness testing, then to oral board interviews and ultimately background investigations, the process could take several months.

Once a patrol deputy is hired multiple phases of our training program begins. Those phases include about 14 weeks of field training with a field training officer, 16 weeks at the Police Academy in Salem as well as continued ongoing training that is required of deputies. Before a new hire can officially be counted on the schedule as a full time deputy, they must successfully complete the training program established by this office. “We can’t minimize the training or rush through it. We owe the citizen’s a high level of service and we can’t just settle, we must be diligent and thorough so that we can provide the best law enforcement services possible”.

Sheriff Garton indicated the biggest hurdle to overcome on patrol is having enough veteran deputies to train the new hires. “We only have so many seats available in our patrol cars for training at any given time, so we are only able to hire a few at a time. As they progress through the various stages of training, we are able to bring on a couple more at a time” Sheriff Garton said.

“Thankfully the patrol division was able to hire 5 deputies who came from other police departments and sheriff’s offices from around the state, which saved us a considerable amount of training time and allowed us to recoup some of our investments we lost when we had budget cuts,” Sheriff Garton said. Being able to hire these deputies from other agencies eliminated us from having to send them to the police academy and it reduced the amount of time they spent on field training. Four of those five are already on the road working and filling a vacancy.

The remaining deputies hired on patrol had been reserve deputies or officers either with the Polk County Sheriff’s Office or other agencies in the Willamette Valley. This too helped the process along as those hires had been to a reserve academy providing them with an initial foundation for police work. Even with attending the reserve academies they are still be required to attend the police academy in Salem for the 16 week academy. “Having the reserve time and reserve academy under their belt makes them better prepared for the job and sets them up for a better chance of success in this profession” Sheriff Garton said.

The work of hiring and training is far from complete. The preparation and planning that was done during the transitions from Sheriff Wolfe to Sheriff Garton has made expanding our patrol coverage possible sooner than expected. “We have been in the training mode since May and we finally have enough deputies who have completed their field training and we are able to transition to 20 hours of patrol coverage. This is the first possibility to transition to 20 hours of coverage we have had. We didn’t want to rush this process, but if we could have transitioned sooner we would have. While none of the new hires (excluding certified new hires) have attended the police academy yet, with the training plan we have created, it will be possible to sustain the 20 hours of coverage until this office can expand even further to 24 hour patrol coverage”, Sheriff Garton said.

The patrol division still has two vacancies they are trying to fill due to an employee termination and another vacancy from when Sheriff Garton was appointed to Sheriff, leaving his position vacant. The process of filling those positions has begun and one should be filled early next month and the other one should be filled approximately a month later.

The jail division had 4 vacancies prior to the passage of the levy that were created due to retirements while another deputy left for employment in the Bend area and the death of a sergeant, leaving the jail short 6 positions prior to the passage of the levy. The levy provided the jail with 5 additional positions that were also lost over time due to budget cuts. Of those 11 positions, 6 have been filled and the other 5 vacancies should be filled in the next few months. While the corrections training is not as long as a patrol deputy, it still requires roughly 12 weeks of field training and 6 weeks of academy training in Salem. The hiring process is the same as for patrol deputies, so it is still a time intensive process and the same level of standards apply.

Sheriff Garton said, “My next set of goals is to get us back to 24 hour coverage and restore the POINT team. Once everyone gets through their academy training we can start scheduling them to fill the vacancies on the schedule. I anticipate that should occur around late June of this year, if all goes according to plan. We have been very fortunate to have hired the people we have thus far. The hiring and training have been going really well and we have positive momentum which is placing us ahead of what we originally planned for.”

“I want to take this opportunity to thank the voters for passing the public safety levy this past May. I am honored to be entrusted with serving the people of Polk County and I will do everything in my power to fulfill the promises that were made as part of the public safety levy. I will ensure that my office provides efficient and effective public safety services to the citizen’s we serve,” Sheriff Garton said. The support showed for the Sheriff’s Office before and after the levy is inspiring and definitely motivating for all the staff at the Sheriff’s Office and everyone is eager to provide more services than we have in the recent past.

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