Meet Capt. Jason Ogden, Sweet Home Police Department’s first of that rank

Benny Westcott

Jason Ogden, a near-24-year veteran of the Sweet Home Police Department, was promoted from sergeant to captain on Thursday, July 1.

“He’s brought a lot to the table throughout his career,” Police Chief Jeff Lynn said of Ogden. “I think it was a natural progression for him to be promoted and accept this type of position. I am excited to see what he will bring with his leadership ability and skill set, to continue pushing our department forward.”

The captain position itself is new; historically, the department’s structure included a chief and four sergeants, plus officers. Ogden’s role is also new, as the department works to shift its structure to “represent what we want to accomplish more,” Lynn said.

“I felt that was a little top-heavy, supervision-wise,” he added. “After looking around at the model that other similar-sized agencies are using, it made a lot of sense to go with a chief, a captain and two patrol sergeants, with officers underneath. It’s more of a lean structure, and it delineates responsibility more. It also allows for some succession planning.”

Ogden said he’s been eyeing promotion throughout his time with the department. When Lynn became police chief in 2013, he applied for Lynn’s vacated sergeant position. “I was thankful to get that,” he said.

And then, this year, the new captain’s position opened. “[Lynn] decided to do some restructuring here, and felt the need to open up a second-in-command position, which I was excited for and was hopeful that I could put in for,” Ogden explained.

He noted that in some ways his work won’t change, because of the agency’s small size.

“Overall, the big change will be that I will be doing oversight of the police department, and be Jeff’s right-hand person,” he said. “Being able to have oversight for everything is going to be a lot different, because previously there were just a few officers that I had oversight for. This new role will be a little more broad.”

Ogden was born in Peoria, Illinois, where he lived until he was five, when his parents moved to Northern California. He attended George Fox University in Newberg, Oregon, earning a Bachelor of Science in business and economics with an emphasis in management. He met his wife, Pam, in college, and the two married their senior year.

Ogden had an older friend who worked in law enforcement in California, who ended up influencing his career choice.

“It just always kind-of interested me,” Ogden said of the profession. “I ended up going on several ride-alongs with him, and I thought, ‘Man, this is something I really want to do.’ I knew I always wanted to get into law enforcement, and Sweet Home ended up being the first place that hired me.”

About five years into his tenure, he worked for Washington County Sheriff’s Office, but only for about 10 months.

“My wife and I decided that living up there wasn’t for us, so we ended up moving back down here,” he said. “The public is very supportive of law enforcement. Being in a small community, you have the opportunity to put some roots in and get to know people. It’s nice being able to go to all kinds of calls for service, and know people.

“To be able to live in the same community that you serve in is awesome,” he continued. “I love it. It’s just nice to know that you’re making an impact in the community that you live in.”

Ogden and his wife have six kids. They include Kelly, 18; Luka, 16; Ivan, 14; Ember, 12, and two adopted children, Hudson, 10; and Jossa Mae, 1. All were homeschooled before they were old enough to attend East Linn Christian Academy.

“My wife carries the load of homeschool,” he said “It’s a big thing. You’re trying to educate five kids that are different grades and different ages. It’s a lot of work. I have to hand it to her; she’s done an amazing job. She just carries that load, and she does it well.”

Ogden finds satisfaction in some of his job’s more challenging elements.

“There’s always problems to be solved, whether it’s internal or external,” he said. “I think it’s fulfilling to be able to identify the problem and try to develop some sort of solution, whether it be short-term or long-term, to help the situation.

“Maybe it’s just showing up to a call and helping mediate between neighbors,” he continued. “Or if someone is interested in growing as a leader, trying to find training for them to be able to grow in an area that they are interested in.”

When asked what has changed during his time on the force, Ogden said, “These last couple of years, there’s been more scrutiny on law enforcement. That’s one of the biggest shifts that I’ve seen.”

However, he noted, more scrutiny is not necessarily a bad thing.

“We want to be transparent,” he said. “We want people to trust us. We want people to be heard and feel like we’re serving them.”

Ogden mentioned that the department has body cameras now, which were not used in the first part of his tenure. He likes the cameras. “It allows us to be transparent and to let people know we’re doing what we’ve been hired and called to do in this profession,” he said. “We want to do it as professionally as possible.”

As far as future goals, Ogden said one of the department’s major focuses is bringing more officers onto the staff. One of those new officers, Trevor Lundquist, began working on July 6, and Lynn said a conditional job offer has been sent to a potential applicant. Still, the department has two vacant positions.

“Our staffing is short right now,” he said, “as short as I can remember it.”

“The focus right now is getting some people hired and getting people out on the road so we can be up to full staff and operating efficiently,” Ogden said, adding that the department seeks candidates who are “hungry, humble and smart. We want people who are eager to do the job and aren’t lazy. And I’m not just talking about being book-smart, necessarily, but also about having common sense. You have to have common sense in order to do this job. You want somebody that’s reasonable and able to pick up on things.”

In his free time, Ogden enjoys photography. He started his own business a few years back, Jason Ogden Photography, which focuses on portraits.

“I love creating things,” he said. “I’m not a good artist as in a sketcher or painter or anything like that, but I feel like I can see art.”

He tries to bring that sense of artistry into his work.

“I like the challenge of being able to take a family or a senior and turn it into a piece of art that somebody would actually want to put on their wall,” he said. “I like senior photos and trying to create something that is really unique, kind of big and dramatic. Something where somebody looks at it and goes, ‘I’ve got to have this person take my senior photo.'”

Whether it’s from behind his camera or the wheel of his police cruiser, Ogden hopes to serve Sweet Home well into the future.

“It’s just a great community,” he said. “I love it here.”