Sheriff's Posse receives commemorative badges
Sheriff Craig Roberts pinned new commemorative badges onto his posse members Friday, May 3 at the Clackamas County Events Center in Canby.
The posse, which began in 1939 in Lake Oswego, includes more than 20 members, each with his or her own horse and trailer. Members participate in security and attend events, such as parades and the Buckeroo, throughout Clackamas and sometimes nearby counties.
The posse's members are as young as their early 30s and range in age up to one of the oldest members who is 87.
The all-volunteer group's motto is "We Ride to Serve," Roberts said in an email. "The group continues to be deeply involved in the community with one constant: They're always here to help," he added.
"Over the past 80 years the local definition of a 'posse' has changed a great deal since 1906—when we formed a posse of citizen volunteers to help lawmen find the fugitive that gunned down Clackamas County Sheriff John R. Shaver. But the principal of selfless service, of citizens stepping up to back up deputies and serve the greater needs of the community remains the same," Roberts said in an email.
Typically people are invited to join, said member Vernon Hulit regarding the posse. He's been a member since 1958, joining at the age of 26.
"There's a process to join," he said.
First is a background investigation and then the family is checked. Each member has his own horse and must come with a trailer that's in good condition. All members must live in Clackamas County or a county abutting Clackamas.
"We all are deputized," says Hulit. "We search for missing people and do other security work including riding patrol (on their horses) at Clackamas Town Center at Christmastime. But we don't carry weapons. Once we followed and identified a suspect that led to his arrest at Clackamas Town Center. We've cut down on car break-ins and deterred other crimes," he said.
Other duties include search and rescue of missing persons, providing security at events, such as the Molalla Buckeroo, and observation and rescue of abused animals, Hulit said. In addition, the posse also has kept watch over animals lost during fires or other natural tragedies. During the Columbia Gorge Fire, they watched and cared for the animals separated from their homes and families.
"Fifteen posse members spent nearly 500 hours of their time caring for the animals displaced by the Eagle Creek Fire at the Clackamas County Fairgrounds," said Roberts.
They attend Damascus Days, help out with the Open Trail Ride at the Molalla Buckeroo, donate hundreds of dollars to the Canby Fair Livestock Auction and they started an Arbor Day Tree Planting program at the Canby Fairgrounds, the sheriff added.
Posse members in 1970 provided a communications van for the state police and ever since they've been upgrading these as needed. They now have supplied two of them and a minivan.
But the posse isn't just work, the group gets together around four times a year to hold parties. There used to be a crab feed in the spring, but that's now turned into a potluck. They join together for a barbeque in the summer. And, while they once handed out toys to kids at Christmas it's now also an ice cream social.
In its earlier years, the posse was a precision drill team and even was on a television show called Art Baker's You Asked for It. One of the first mounted posses in Oregon, they hold an annual trail ride in different parts of the state. They continue to perform precision drills as far east as Montana and northwest into Vancouver B.C. and appear in various parades throughout Clackamas and the surrounding counties.
Two of their group members put together an annual symposium through the Oregon Association of Mounted Posse on search and rescue of missing persons, using a compass to find the way.
Posse members also work and support Camp Hope, a week-long summer camp on Mt. Hood and a year-long mentoring program for children that have witnessed or experienced family violence to offer hope and healing to impacted children. The camp fosters resilience, positive character traits and helps promotes healing through active play and recreation. In addition, they provide horses and walks for safety with a posse member walking along at the side of the horse. Previously, they worked with blind children by walking them on horseback, one on either side of the animal.
"I speak for sheriffs everywhere when I say: we're glad to have the posse out there helping us out. They are tremendously valuable partners. My heartfelt thanks goes out to all the current and past members for their incredible service to Clackamas County," Roberts said.