Sgt. Gregg Griffith not looking to fill shoes of Ralph Painter

by: Courtesy photo Sgt. Gregg Griffith (right) will be taking over as Rainier Police Chief following former chief Ralph Painter (left) who was killed while responding to a call in early January.

Sgt. Gregg Griffith of the Rainier Police Department isn't trying to fill the shoes of Ralph Painter, the city's former chief of police who died while responding to an attempted car break-in during the early morning of Jan. 5.

Griffith, a 13-year veteran of the police department, has been tapped to replace Painter, who became the second Columbia County police chief to lose his life in the line of duty in the past 40 years. The last was Vernonia Chief of Police Raymond Garcia in 1971.

'I'm just hoping to continue on [doing what Painter did],' Griffith said. 'He and I always collaborated on the direction we wanted the department to go.'

The city of Rainier and Griffith are currently hashing out the details of a contract, which will finalize Griffith's transition to full-fledged chief of police. That is expected to be completed by the end of the week.

Despite the gravity of the shooting and how it has affected the small community and the state, Griffith said life in Rainier is getting back to normal.

People continue to be more openly supportive of the police department than at any other time in Griffith's memory. They continue to stop him at the street or the grocery store to tell him that their thoughts and prayers are with him.

He said he wants to extend that goodwill in the future.

His top priority will be increasing staffing levels within the force. In addition to losing Painter, the department has also not filled a vacant position left when another officer moved from the force last year.

Filling that empty position will require a financial contribution from the city, Griffith said.