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County orders weighmasters to halt traffic stops

Review following shooting finds lack of training, oversight


Clackamas County has announced it is shutting down its highway weight enforcement program in the wake of the Feb. 6 shooting death of weighmaster Grady Waxenfelter.

The decision to make permanent a suspension of the program comes after a review found several major flaws in how the county was equipping, training and overseeing its weighmasters.

“I take these findings very seriously,” said county administrator Don Krupp in a statement.

The report showed weighmasters were making about 15 to 20 traffic stops per week.

“Vehicle traffic stops are the single most dangerous activity of a peace officer. It is during this activity that most all injury and/or deaths occur,” stated the report, written by Wes Curtis of Commercial Truck Consulting and commissioned by the county.

Despite indications to the weighmaster staff that they were the functional equivalent of other law enforcement personnel, the report revealed that the weighmasters had received no formal training in the various aspects of personal safety during enforcement and arrests, that their vehicles were ill-equipped for high-speed chases, and that the employees had little more than a visibility vest for protection.

“In fact, other than sending the 'permit specialist' to DOT Drug Interdiction training in 2012, 'no' real training had been provided to their employees over the course of their employment in safety-related issues,” Curtis concluded. “It is apparent that one new to the weighmaster position is reliant upon a tenured weighmaster for any training on this through the on-the-job training premise of ‘I do – You do.’”

The review also found that employees felt uncomfortable using their radio and often relayed their activities through text messages.

Krupp said the county will be re-evaluating the Weighmaster Program and how to proceed with its efforts in the future.

The report recommended that if the county wants to continue enforcement stops, it should develop and document a training protocol for weighmasters similar to that for its police officers and also encourage weighmasters to issue citations, which they hadn’t been before.

Weighmaster Program Supervisor Kevin Peterson began building the program as it is today in 1997, according to the report. At the time of Waxenfelter’s death, the program had four employees.

In addition to enforcement stops, the weighmaster program includes permitting, public outreach, business training and other activities.

"These important functions will continue while the county considers its future options," Krupp said.

Waxenfelter had worked for Clackamas County since 1987. The Estacada resident was an elder at his church and a married father of three. A memorial tree was planted during a May 16 service and the fleet/weighmaster building on Abernethy Road in Oregon City was named after him.

The Clackamas County Sheriff’s Office is conducting a criminal investigation into Waxenfelter’s death. The suspect, Dirck Morgan White, was last seen in Des Moines, Iowa, and is considered armed and dangerous.

Oregon’s Occupational Health and Safety Division also is conducting an investigation.

Read the full report




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