Clackamas Sunrise Rotary Club honors officers with awards
Clackamas Sunrise Rotary Club recognized Oregon State Trooper Keena Washington, as well as the Clackamas County Water Rescue Team, at its annual Law Enforcement Day awards ceremony May 20 at Bob's Red Mill.
"We hold this annual event to show appreciation for those who put their lives on the line every day for us as they face circumstances that most people avoid and run from. The last couple of years have been especially trying for law enforcement, as we know, so this will be our chance to highlight the great things they do while serving our county and state," said Rotary Club event organizer Dave Sohm.
OSP Lt. Patrick Huskey introduced six-year veteran Washington, who was nominated by his peers in 2020 and in 2022 but he had to wait until this year to be officially recognized due to COVID. Huskey said the department is 50% short staffed, and Washington fills in when needed in addition to being the field training officer and part of the Mobile Response Team.
During the last two years, the Clackamas County Water Rescue Team has responded to 80 calls for assistance in Clackamas County and 30 missions across the state of Oregon — ranging from locating weapons to search and recovery of people lost in water and natural disasters. They have aided in Multnomah, Marion, Yamhill, Washington and Clackamas counties, as well as in the cities of Hillsboro, Beaverton, Lake Oswego, Salem, Bend and Milwaukie. Deputy Josh Hattan said that the average duration for being on the team is six to eight years.
"Our callouts are literally, a pager goes off, and I tell the guys 'let's go,' and they drop what they're doing — family, work and everything like that. So it's amazing that these guys can go ahead and do that for years on end," Hattan said.
Hattan told the Rotary Club about two missions, one was the team's search in the Columbia River Gorge for a woman who was swept away in a landslide. Most of the team did not have previous experience with mud but, nevertheless, used their training to make their way through the debris and eventually found the victim.
"These guys adapt to everything. They're able to do so much, and it's such an incredible experience with them," Hattan said.
Hattan said the divers typically have zero visibility, attach to a line and search by feel. The team dives in 40 feet of water or less and operates with dry suits, thermals and other layers that completely seal off their bodies from water and potential contaminants and help them stay warm. As for duration, divers stay underwater for anywhere between 20 minutes and an hour depending on the conditions and level of mental fatigue.
"Designated safety officers on our team monitor the divers. So if we feel that it's becoming a toll on them, we pull them out," Hattan said.
Mental fatigue is a concern that the team makes sure to address when they are off duty as well. While the team has many stories of successful dives, they have just as many — if not more — experiences where they witness unforgettable deaths.
"You never forget those dives. I can visualize some of mine," Hattan said. "The way the mind processes and stores information doesn't always know where to put events and memories. So, without help, they'll just sit on a desk. And the more memories you have built up, the less working space you have for your day-to-day activities."
Hattan said mental health is an issue that needs to be constantly addressed by law enforcement. Officers cope with what they experience by talking to specialized counselors, their loved ones and one another.
Hattan referred to the dive team as a second family for the team's members.
"We do things off duty, we do things together, and we trust each other," he said. "If I'm the diver underwater, I'm trusting the guy who's on the surface who's helping me. I'm trusting the guys who are backing me up if I need them. It's an additional family even closer than the guys who we work with on the road and on patrol."
In light of the Defund the Police Movement, CCSO Lt. Marcus Mendoza said that when the movement was going on and Portland lost some funding, Clackamas County voters approved the sheriff's office levy in May 2021. In the levy was a request for an increase in funding, which gave them additional deputy positions.
"We needed it, and we thank the voters for their decision on that, so we'll give you the best service that we can with the funds that you're providing," Mendoza said
After July, Clackamas County will hire additional deputies. Training takes a year and a half, so the benefits will not be seen until next fall.
"Fortunately, for us in Clackamas County, we know that we have the support of the community. We hear that from you day in and day out, and from all of us, I will say thank you," Mendoza said.
You count on us to stay informed and we depend on you to fund our efforts. Quality local journalism takes time and money. Please support us to protect the future of community journalism.