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Voters in Washington County are being asked to answer the call at the ballot box for our public safety agencies

As a kid, many of us may have wanted to grow up to be a firefighter, police officer, maybe even an attorney or a judge.

BRANTLEY DETTMERHowever, as we become adults, the reality sets in of what those jobs really entail — the danger of going into a burning building to save someone's life, risking your life while being shot at, or maybe being targeted by a criminal you helped get arrested or convicted. Life in the public safety and judicial world is intense.

At the same time, we, the public, find great comfort in knowing if we're in trouble or in a crisis, there's someone on the other end of the phone who will send us help.

Westside Economic Alliance (WEA) recently had the honor of hosting some of the region's best leaders when it comes to public safety and the judicial system. This was for its February Breakfast Forum presented by Intel and entitled "Building safe, strong, & thriving communities." It featured Washington County District Attorney (DA) Kevin Barton, Washington County Sheriff Pat Garrett, Tualatin Valley Fire and Rescue (TVF&R) Chief Deric Weiss, and Tigard Police Chief Kathy McAlpine. The panel was moderated by Washington County Circuit Court Judge Oscar Garcia.

It was obvious that those on the forum panel and their fellow colleagues in the room have a passion for serving and protecting. These outstanding leaders and their staffs are dedicated to their jobs and the public they serve. They are also skilled in managing their organizations. Despite facing challenges, they continue to strive ahead to meet the growing population's needs as best they can.

These leaders recognize that budgets are tight. They talked about the difficulty of replacing retiring employees during full employment conditions – recruiting the right people is a challenge, including reaching out to a more diverse workforce.

As leaders, they also work to be accessible and transparent. Data is helping to shape the who and where limited resources and infrastructure are placed.

Chief Weiss said TVF&R surveys its residents, and the feedback it receives helps to shape how the agency operates. He said if it's wrong, they change it, and if it's right, they explain it.

The TVF&R Chief also talked about his agency responding to the public. He said when you call 911, you have one of three choices — police, fire, or medical. There are no other options in terms of which agency will respond — you don't get to choose Hillsboro Fire or Beaverton Police — you get the service of whomever dispatch sends. However, he believes the public, his agency and other agencies serve, deserve the best.

Fortunately, partnerships help bridge gaps in desperate times of need and to bring the best by working together. DA Barton shared a recent example of partnerships with forum guests that involved all of the agencies represented on the panel. He referred to a shooting near Hagg Lake last August (2019), where Washington County Sheriff deputies responded to a burglary call. When deputies arrived and went in search of a suspect, two officers were shot. The tactical team that responded had a TVF&R paramedic embedded in it, so he risked his life in helping to save the life of one of the officers critically injured. After the suspect was taken into custody, a Tigard detective was assigned to lead the investigation, and the DA's office is prosecuting the case, which is scheduled to go to trial in April. Thanks to partnerships and good planning/training, lives were saved and a suspect was apprehended that day. It was a dramatic story that underscored the commitment of those in public safety.

If you are a voter in Washington County and/or in Tigard, it will be your turn in May to come to the rescue and help two local public safety agencies. Both the Washington County Sheriff's Office and Tigard Police will have levies on the May ballot. WEA's Board of Directors has endorsed both levies. Last year WEA endorsed TVF&R's levy as well. We are committed to supporting our public safety providers, so they can continue to bring their best in critical times of need. Please join us in voting in support of both measures.


Brantley Dettmer is Director of Analytics for Kaiser Permanente, and board president of the WEA. Learn more about the WEA at: westsidealliance.org


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