Angela Brandenburg said she believes her tenure as sheriff marks the beginning of a new chapter for the Clackamas County Sheriff's Office.
Brandenburg, the first woman to be elected sheriff in the office's 175-year history, gave an enthusiastic and optimistic update to the Clackamas Board of County Commissioners Thursday, Jan. 21, in which she introduced her executive team and vowed to immediately seek two external audits she plans to use to inform her decisions on both personnel and financial matters.
"For me, my team and the sheriff's office, this is a new beginning for us," Brandenburg told county commissioners.
First, according to Brandenburg, she has asked County Treasurer Brian Nava's office to conduct an independent financial condition audit of which the sheriff's office should have the results sometime in March. The audit's goal is to ensure that resources are being used efficiently.
Second, Brandenburg said she's seeking a consulting firm to conduct a comprehensive staffing study that she hopes will help shine a light on how CCSO operates and "allow the public to better understand what we do."
"You can expect that we're regularly going to come before you and explain what we do, bring our units to you, the people who do the work, and you can have a chance to ask questions," Brandenburg said. "But really our goal and our commitment is to work with you, to work with our county partners and really to serve the public to the best of our abilities, and doing that together."
According to Brandenburg, Undersheriff Michael Copenahaver will oversee the implementation of the findings from both audits. Copenhaver is a 17-year veteran of CCSO who has served as a detective in the investigations, narcotics, child abuse, homicide and violent crimes divisions. He's also served as director of A Safe Place Family Justice Center.
"I'm really proud of the work that the sheriff's office has done surrounding survivors of really awful crimes here in the county, and happy to have been a part of that," Copenahver said.
Copenhaver's role as undersheriff will include supervision of the office's public information unit which handles all media relations and messaging. He is also in charge of the professional standards unit handling internal affairs and complaints lodged against the office, as well as the Family Justice Center which is now under the direction of Lt. Rich Sheldon.
Chief Deputy Jenna Morrison has been with CCSO for more than 12 years and is also a county resident. She oversees jail operations, the community corrections and civil divisions of the sheriff's office. Morrison also heads the operations support unit which manages the office's fiscal responsibilities.
"I get to work with you all (commissioners) on the budget committee, and that is one of the things that I spend a lot of time on and look forward to doing in the future," Morrison said.
Chief Deputy Jesse Ashby came to CCSO from the West Linn Police Department in 2007. He's spent most of his career with the sheriff's office as a homicide investigator and supervisor of the violent crime team. He also served the narcotics unit as a drug investigator, sergeant for the office's patrol unit and within the professional standards unit. As one of two chief deputies, he'll oversee the patrol, investigations, training and wellness divisions, as well as contract services with the cities of Estacada, Happy Valley and Wilsonville.
County Chair Tootie Smith and the rest of the board were excited to hear about Brandenburg's vision for the sheriff's office and stated that they look forward to working with her and the executive team in the future.
"I feel that you have a very open approach for how you want to do business and for your governance model," Smith said. "I'm also absolutely thrilled to death to congratulate you in a different way, and that's as the first woman elected sheriff in the history of Clackamas County. I love saying this expression: There's a new sheriff in town."
Commissioner Paul Savas commended Brandenburg's commitment to transparency as well, and highlighted the importance of hiring an auditing firm that is truly free of any influence in order to get the best and most transparent results.
Brandenburg thanked Savas for his suggestion and said she's committed to working with her fellow elected county leaders to implement changes found to be necessary by audits, as well as findings of the OIR report, which was spurred by a string of scandals involving deputies circa 2017.
Brandenburg also said she's having conversations with newly-elected District Attorney John Wentworth to change some of the office's policies around external agencies assisting in internal investigations.
"I totally embrace that this is about transparency in policing," Brandenburg said. "We hear the public. They demand that there is transparency and accountability, so that is my pledge that we will do that."
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