Astoria's Police Chief Rob Deu Pree has announced he will run for Clatsop County Sheriff, pitting the county's top deputy sheriff against Astoria's top cop.
Deu Pree, 59, said he decided to run because Clatsop County is poised at a time of change and important evens in the next four years, foremost of which is the Lewis and Clark Bicentennial. He said he feels serving as sheriff could make him an integral part during a key time for the county.
Chief of Astoria's police department since 1993, Deu Pree was the chief of the Springfield police department for nine years and before that worked as the second in command to the chief of the police department in Arvada, Colo., a city of more than 100,000 near Denver.
An Astoria resident, Deu Pree is married and the father of two.
The chief deputy of the sheriff's office, Tom Bergin, announced his bid for the sheriff's office in late October.
One of the top issues facing the office is the question of a new jail. Voters gave a resounding "no" to the question of whether to build a jail in a 2002 vote. Deu Pree said a more systematic approach needs to be taken by the sheriff's office to demonstrate the need for a corrections facility.
He said by voting no, voters told the county to "explore options better." Deu Pree said he'd like to do that by taking into account the Community Corrections transitions center and waiting for a report by a task force appointed by Gov. Ted Kulongoski to examine corrections at the state and county levels.
In the course of one to two years, Deu Pree said he expects the sheriff's office could present a more complete package that could convince voters to pay for a new jail.
"Unfortunately that wasn't put together in the last jail proposal," he said.
Another major issue for Clatsop County law enforcement is narcotics. Astoria's police department has been criticized for not having an officer full time on the county's narcotic task force.
Deu Pree said it is somewhat of a misperception to say that Astoria is not part of the task force. It pays about $40,000 annually to the sheriff's office to support the task force. Astoria officers follow up on information supplied by the task force and serve arrest warrants associated with narcotics.
"It's not a case where Astoria's police officers don't have anything to do with narcotics," he said. "We arrest people for drug violations every week."
Currently, no municipal department has an officer on the task force, Deu Pree said, and the sheriff's office can maintain the force because of federal funding. Each year, he said, he requests the funding to have an officer work full time, but said the city can not afford to fight drugs at the expense of its first priority to keep serving the general public.
If elected, Deu Pree said he would also bring community policing to the sheriff office's criminal division. He recently returned from a trip to Kosovo where he took community policing to the local police as part of the United Nations mission there. "Frankly, that's what I do," he said.
Community policing in Clatsop County, Deu Pree said, would mean deputies taking into account the differences between Arch Cape and Brownsmead and adjusting their responses to reflect those varying aspects.
And, he added, he would like to see the county's various fire departments and police agencies work and train better together. He said a strong sense of cooperation is already present, but a collaborative effort toward training is not.
This would mean better communications so any agency could talk to another throughout the county and training managers to react to disasters specific to the county, such as tsunamis.
The sheriff's office has several volunteer organizations. These include the posse, High Angle Rescue Team, Dive Team and search and rescue team. Deu Pree said those volunteers need to be more fully incorporated into the sheriff's office.
"Those people need to be able to be fulfilled in their volunteerism," he said.
To provide that fulfillment, Deu Pree said the sheriff's office could provide more training and possibly expand roles for volunteers.