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Sheriff's office focuses on building trust

National news is filled with examples of failed police and community relations. While the most recent events happened in other states, we cannot ignore the fact that similar sentiment may be shared by some in our local community.

The good news is, your Washington County Sheriff’s Office has a record of building strong relationships with many community groups, and continues to make this a priority.

We live in the most diverse county in Oregon. Some residents are attracted to this county by its high tech careers; others arrived as farm workers or laborers; and still others are arriving as refugees or immigrants. As our population continues to grow, building trusting relationships within our community and having clear communication is an ongoing and essential challenge. As a public service agency, we have the opportunity to work first-hand with our community members, either directly or indirectly. Working as patrol deputies, we respond daily to help people who are elderly, in mental health crisis, victims of abuse, disabled, homeless, veterans, and others who have many different backgrounds with varied life circumstances or experiences. Jail deputies work with inmates, family members, attorneys and clergy — sometimes all coming from varied cultural and socio-economic groups.

Our success in resolving neighborhood issues, investigating cases, and safely operating a jail depends on cultivating an understanding of people, no matter their background.

We train for success. WCSO staff members receive ongoing training in cross-cultural communication and the impacts of bias. Over the last 10 months, members from several different cultural and community groups have provided input on the course content, helping to shape our approach to this proactive training.

As our community is constantly changing, this type of training will never be finished. We will continue to assess our progress and determine our best steps to ensure we are constantly growing and developing the most up-to-date programs.

Your sheriff’s office is also continually conducting outreach to its diverse communities. It was a privilege to recently join leaders in the Muslim communities and WCSO staff at two gatherings.

While our relationship with some of these leaders may be new, we are beginning to take the right steps to build for the future. Additionally, in November, WCSO staff assisted in serving a community dinner to a large cross-section of people in Cornelius. The dinner served residents, primarily those with limited resources, who may have not had the opportunity to enjoy their own holiday dinner. These shared positive experiences are invaluable.

We accept the challenge to not only acknowledge differences, but to embrace them and continue to build relationships through our experiences together. By this, we develop trust — which is something we cannot do without.

While we always strive to be better, our deputies, investigators, office staff and many volunteers do an excellent job day to day, tackling enormously challenging work across a richly diverse Washington County. They deserve our full support, and I thank you for yours.

We all wish you safe travels and the happiest of holidays!

Pat Garrett is sheriff of Washington County.

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