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Wilsonville gets new police chief


Lt. Jeff Smith replaces James Rhodes

by: SPOKESMAN FILE PHOTO: JOSH KULLA - Newly-appointed Wilsonville Police Chief Jeff Smith, shown here on his first day on the job Monday, replaces outgoing Chief James Rhodes, who was promoted to captain and will head the Clackamas County Sheriffs Office Patrol Division.Work just got a little more complicated for Jeff Smith.

But the newly appointed chief of the Wilsonville Police Department is eager to get to work.

A 19-year law enforcement veteran, Smith was named Monday to replace former Chief James Rhodes, who was recently promoted to captain of the Clackamas County Sheriff's Office patrol division. Smith was selected over two other lieutenants following an extensive interview process involving the agency and the city.

“I like what Chief Rhodes had done prior to my assignment down here, and with his promotion, leaving this position vacant, it was a good opportunity to make that change,” Smith said. “It’s going to be a little different. I was formerly a swing shift watch commander, so this is actually fewer people for me to supervise.”

Smith has spent his entire law enforcement career with the sheriff’s office. Most recently, he served as patrol lieutenant, supervising as many as seven sergeants in that role. He also represented the agency in the federal Homeland Security Task Force, Oregon Fugitive Task Force, HOPE Drug Court, explosive disposal unit, Drug Recognition Experts and several other community-planning committees.

“We are excited to welcome Chief Smith to our community,” said City Manager Bryan Cosgrove. “Based on the interviews we conducted and his extensive law enforcement experience, we are very confident that he will be a great fit for Wilsonville. We also want to thank former Chief Rhodes for his exceptional service to our community.”

The Clackamas County Sheriff’s Office provides police service in Wilsonville under a longstanding contract with the city. The city is paying $3.89 million in fiscal year 2013-14 for the services of a chief, two sergeants, a traffic enforcement officer, 11 patrol deputies, a community service officer, school resource officer and a detective.

Additional services available through the sheriff’s office include dispatch, a special investigations unit, the dive/rescue team, detective division, traffic teams, SWAT team and the hazardous material and bomb squad.

One of the initiatives Smith hopes to carry over from Rhodes’ watch is an initiative to introduce bicycle patrols to Wilsonville. Talks are underway with the city, Smith said, to procure a pair of bicycles equipped for police use.

“The city is really excited about that opportunity,” Smith said. “We’ll be acquiring a couple of bicycles and outfitting them as police bicycles. One of the drawbacks of a patrol car is that you’re visible but you’re not really engaged in the community. But on a bicycle people can see you. (Rhodes) got the ball rolling on it but the promotion left it to where he couldn’t finish what he started, so I’m excited to be able to continue that.”

Deputies currently serving in Wilsonville already are familiar with Smith and almost universally applaud his appointment as chief. On background they were willing to speak broadly about the respect he has garnered within the agency for his leadership and other qualities.

by: SPOKESMAN FILE PHOTO: JOSH KULLA - Former Wilsonville Police Chief James Rhodes, pictured here, has been promoted to Captain and will be replaced by Lt. Jeff Smith as the head of the city's police department.The outgoing Rhodes served just nine months as chief of police. He was hired by CCSO in 1997, and has risen through the ranks from deputy to homicide and violent crimes detective and up the ladder to lieutenant and his new post as captain of patrol. As he told the Spokesman last summer upon his appointment as chief, he relishes the various aspects of policing he has experienced and is driven to always keep moving and learning.

“I’ve enjoyed many things, and really, truly, right now, this is my favorite job,” Rhodes said during an interview last June. “Part of what drove my desire to come here is that relationship that comes with being responsible for a community, being responsive to a community. As chief of police I have an opportunity to really see the results of some hard work. You get that interaction with the community that I really enjoyed as a city police officer at the beginning of my career, so here I am.”

For his part, Smith graduated from the Oregon Police Academy in 1995, where he received the Lee M. Brown award for finishing No. 1 in his class of 52 students. He started his career as a reserve officer in West Linn before being hired full time by the sheriff’s office later the same year.

He started as a deputy sheriff in the patrol division and then on the domestic violence enhanced response team, where he worked until 2004 when he was promoted to sergeant. In 2008 he was promoted to detective sergeant, where he served until 2012.

Smith graduated from the University of Oregon and holds numerous law enforcement certifications in various areas, including executive leadership, management and supervision. He is a graduate of Oregon City High School and is married with two children.

In Wilsonville, Smith will lead a staff of 17 full-time deputies, sergeants and detectives who are employed by CCSO, but are assigned full time to Wilsonville.