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Sheriff needs no police training

As entertaining as it might be to see 70-year-old Multnomah County Sheriff Bob Skipper huffing and puffing his way through 16 weeks of basic training at the state police academy, we don't believe that's the best use of either his time or the taxpayers' money.

The state Department of Public Safety Standards and Training is requiring that Skipper be certified again as a law enforcement officer because he was away from his profession for 13 years before being called out of retirement last year to replace former Sheriff Bernie Guisto. (See the story at www.portlandtribune.com.)

The state should consider that the Multnomah County sheriff's role is entirely an administrative one. Skipper won't be chasing crooks down the street, firing his weapon or cruising around in a patrol car. Rather, he'll be balancing budgets, directing his management staff and administering the county jails.

We don't believe it is necessary to toss Skipper into training with a bunch of new recruits starting next month. We recognize that the Department of Public Safety Standards and Training staff and its board of directors are in a tough spot because state law clearly requires that a sheriff - any sheriff - obtain and maintain basic police certification. But the staff or the board could grant Skipper a waiver of the customary rules - an option that they have rejected in two separate rulings because of the belief that it would set a 'dangerous precedent.'

We believe, however, that Skipper's situation is unusual enough that an exception can be made without jeopardizing the state's ability to rule differently in the future. Skipper has more than a full agenda to contend with as sheriff. His absence for 16 weeks - plus the $15,000 cost for the basic training - would not benefit the public or his department.

We have little doubt that the lean and fit Skipper could pass his basic training courses. But sending him off to a police academy at this point in his life sounds too much like a plot for a silly movie. The Multnomah County sheriff's office needs leadership, not comedy. The state Department of Public Safety Standards and Training should reconsider its ruling and let Skipper keep his attention on more immediate concerns.