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 $20 million, 117,000-square-foot building and driving area officially opened Tuesday, July 16 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 deputies 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 an off-duty deputy was able to calm down a man with a traumatic brain injury who was brandishing a baseball bat in a neighborhood. 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," he added. "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 designed for physical training, including mockup jail cells and a seven-building village that simulates a city street with a convenience store, 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 Washington County Board of Commissioners 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.
During 2018, according to the Sheriff's Office, deputies booked 18,412 inmates into the 572-bed jail. The county says is used force 1.28 percent of the time, or about 235 times in 2018.
Washington County Sheriff's Office, with more than 400 uniformed officers, is the third largest law enforcement agency in the Portland area, after the Portland Police Bureau and Multnomah County Sheriff's Office.
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