Washington County sheriff opens training center
Sheriff's deputies and city police will have an up-to-date place to master their skills with the opening of the Public Safety Training Center by the Washington County Sheriff's Office in Hillsboro.
The 117,000-square-foot building and driving area officially opened July 16 at a cost of $20 million. The center is in a former industrial building at 600 S.W. Walnut St., not far from the Walnut Street Center, which also houses county offices.
Sheriff Pat Garrett said the center has been a decade in the making — following failed attempts to create a metro area or public-private facility — and involved many from his office, the county administrator and facility services.
He said the center goes beyond training in firearms or driving a patrol car, although the center has indoor firing ranges and an outdoor driving track.
Garrett described two incidents earlier this year — one involving three deputies and a Beaverton officer, the other an off-duty jail deputy — that could have ended in injury or death.
"You do not hear about them in the news because they ended safely for everyone," he said. "But these kinds of endings depend on realistic training — the kind of training they will receive at this training center."
The first incident ended when a deputy fired a 40mm sponge round — made of hard plastic — that struck the right thigh of a man who refused to heed police commands and advanced with a knife. The man dropped the knife and was taken into custody and to a hospital for treatment.
The second incident ended when the off-duty deputy was able to calm down a man with a traumatic brain injury who was brandishing a baseball bat in a neighborhood filled with people. The man had already soaked a nearby car with gasoline but was unable to set it afire.
Garrett said proper training protects the public and officers.
"Excellent training ensures that our community can be more confident their law enforcement professionals do the right thing, especially when they have to make a split-second decision when lives are on the line," he said.
"The training center allows us to integrate dynamic, changing situations in a learning environment, so when something happens in our community or in our jail, it's not the first time for that experience. The dynamics are more familiar and the deputy or officer knows better how to respond."
In addition to two 50-yard firing ranges, a 3.5-acre driving area and five classrooms, the center has three rooms for physical training for officers, a mockup of jail cells — the sheriff operates the county's only jail — and a seven-building village that simulates a city street with a convenience store, motel/apartments, and homes.
Garrett said he has made the center a priority since he became sheriff in late 2011.
Kathryn Harrington, who became chairwoman of the county board in January, acknowledged the project's support from the prior board — three of whose members left office at the start of this year.
"Our community benefits when we make sure these men and women in uniform have the best possible equipment and training before they begin their shifts every day," she said. "The facility we are opening today is a critical part of that commitment from our board as well as from the prior board."
During the grand opening, sheriff's deputies conducted demonstrations at the firing range and driving area, plus defensive tactics for officers, use of a police dog in the simulated neighborhood, and extraction of an inmate from a mock jail cell.
Corporal Ken Kaiser led a four-person team demonstrating how deputies learn to remove an inmate from a cell with minimal use of physical force. The inmate in the scenario also was a deputy.
During 2018, according to the Sheriff's Office, deputies booked 18,412 inmates into the 572-bed jail and used force 1.28 percent of the time.
Washington County Sheriff's Office, with more than 400 uniformed officers, is the third largest law enforcement agency in the Portland area, after Portland Police Bureau and Multnomah County Sheriff's Office.
Scott/Edwards Architecture of Portland was involved both in the Washington County project and the Portland Police Bureau's own training center, which opened in 2014 on Northeast Airport Way at a cost of $15 million. The chief back then was Mike Reese, who now is Multnomah County sheriff.
Architects were Sid Scott, Brian Hoeft and Scott Wright from the Portland firm.
Corp Inc. Construction of Salem was the general contractor. Jason Annotti was the project manager, David Edgerton, superintendent, and Stephanie Wiltsey, project coordinator.
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