New county Sheriff comes to office with extensive public service history

Bruce Riley took over as Linn County sheriff on Jan. 1, after being appointed to succeed Tim Mueller, who has retired.

“Born and raised in Linn County,” said Riley, 51. “My roots are here. I was born in Albany. I lived in Albany till 17, 18 years ago.”

He and his wife of 24 years, Renee, moved to Tangent, he said, and now he’s 10 minutes from everywhere.

“From the beginning, I was exposed to dedicated public service,” Riley said. His father, Del Riley, retired as the Linn County Clerk. He remembers visiting the courthouse while growing up and meeting county officials, including sheriffs and deputies.

“I always admired those guys,” Riley said. His father always spoke highly of them when Riley was growing up in the 1970s, he said.

Riley graduated from Salem Academy in 1980 and then attended Linn-Benton Community College. He worked part-time at Valley Fire Control, assisting with servicing fire equipment. In 1982, when the owner of Valley Fire Control purchased Albany Lock and Key, and he obtained his license as a locksmith.

But law enforcement was in the back of his mind, Riley said. “What appealed to me about county was the connection my dad had, and there’s something about this historical connection.”

His father introduced him to the reserve program, he said, and he became a reserve deputy in 1985.

The reserve program was a great way for someone to get the feet wet thinking about a law enforcement career, Riley said. Later he learned that it was a great way for the Sheriff’s Office to get a look at a potential full-time deputy, “and the office does use it as a hiring tool.”

Sheriff Ken Goins swore Riley into the reserves, and in June 1987, Sheriff Art Martinak swore him in as a patrol deputy at the Albany office. Out of the Albany office, he patrolled everywhere and spent a lot of time in east Linn County.

He put in about 6½ years as a patrol deputy before being promoted to corporal (no longer a rank) and assisting the supervisor. Dave Burright became sheriff in 1995, and he promoted Riley to patrol sergeant in 1998. Tim Mueller became sheriff in 2005 and promoted Riley to patrol captain. When Undersheriff Will McAnulty retired, Mueller promoted Riley to undersheriff.

Since Goins’ administration, every sheriff had a hand in Riley’s career, he said, and he has experience at every rank in the office.

Riley always wants to see the office through the eyes of the deputies and each other position, he said. “I think I can bring that perspective in my leadership.”

Patrol was most of Riley’s career, he said, but he has always been aware of the other aspects of the Sheriff’s Office. Most of the time, his exposure to the jail side of the office was dropping off suspects there. When staffing was minimal, while the jail was located at the courthouse, patrol deputies would sometimes have to work at the jail or transport prisoners.

It wasn’t until he became undersheriff that he gained a broader perspective, he said, and he learned all about the jail and civil divisions. He now has dual certification, in patrol and corrections.

“I definitely understand a little better what they do and the budget process,” Riley said.

Riley said he never set out to be sheriff, but he viewed his job at the office as a calling.

His career, of course, has had many ups and downs, he said. “I always just thought I was supposed to be doing this.”

That took him through the ranks, and he began to think seriously about the possibility of being sheriff when he became undersheriff.

“Tim did a great job coaching me along the way, dragging me to meetings,” Riley said. He learned about securing funding and representing the office.

Now, as sheriff, one of his goals for 2014 is to reverse reductions made in 2012, Riley said. Reductions included four patrol deputies, a detective, a couple of dispatchers and 48 beds in the jail.

He believes Linn County will support the office when it next renews its operating levy.

Linn County Sheriff’s Office has a good rapport with the citizens because the service is personal, Riley said. In other jurisdictions, call the police, and an automated phone tree system answers. Reports are recorded in voice mail.

In Linn County, from dogs barking to a dispute over a fence, if a citizen calls, a deputy will respond, Riley said. The office still must prioritize calls, and it may take a while, but a deputy will respond.

“I think that’s why we’ve had a good rapport with the people of Linn County,” he said. They have come to expect transparency, honesty and personal service.

Riley has changed the office’s mission statement. Looking to state law, he learned that his job is to be the “conservator of the peace.”

That’s what each employee is supposed to do, he said. Every job is to help keep the peace in Linn County.

The statement is “keeping the peace with dignity, honesty and compassion,” Riley said. He wants the employees to think about it when they’re out doing their jobs.

Dignity means being worthy of honor and respect, Riley said. Honesty, integrity and truthfulness, is the bedrock.

“We seek what really happened and let the chips fall where they may,” Riley said.

The last part is compassion, Riley said, helping people in need. Law enforcement can get a hard reputation, with officers pushing people around.

“It is so the opposite,” Riley said. “Most people get into it because they are compassionate. They want to fight injustice. I never liked people victimizing other people. I think most law enforcement feels that way.”

If law enforcement is doing its job, community members are able to go about their business and live their lives, he said. Without it, “you’ve got serious issues.”

Riley said he is committed to always having a person answering the phones, a patrol to send when there is a prowler at 3 a.m. and a jail bed to lock up suspects.

The Sheriff’s Office has been headed in the right direction, Riley said. The previous sheriffs have been honorable men, and he feels his job is to carry on that torch.

As he takes office, the personal crime rate is lower than the state average in Linn County, Riley said. The property crime rate is higher, and the office is talking about proactive, focused patrols to address it. After recent problems in Mill City, the office put together a team and blitzed the area, making a difference.

Riley’s wife graduated from Sweet Home High School in 1984. They met at the Sheriff’s Office, where she was a clerk. Couples were not allowed to work at the Sheriff’s Office together, and she resigned when they married.

When he told Sheriff Martinak about it and that one of them would resign, he told Riley, “I’m not sure the right person’s quitting, but congratulations.”

She is now an office manager with an Albany area elementary school.

They have three adult children, Brent, 25, who has completed two tours of duty in Iraq and is now attending college; Holly, 21, who works at Paws Animal Hospital in Lebanon; and Caleb, who is going to school and working. They have a 1-year-old granddaughter.

“My family is very supportive,” Riley said,. “Being a family man and a cop can be a tough job, but I hope being good at one makes me better at the other.”