Election 2022: Linn County Sheriff Candidates
October 19, 2022
Michelle Duncan, 48
Education: A.A. in administration of criminal justice, San Jose Community College
Professional Background/Work Experience: Department of Corrections corrections officer (1996-97); Linn County Sheriff's Office (1997-present, with a break of 2½ months 21 years ago to work at Salem Police Department). "Missing the family atmosphere and the way LCSO does law enforcement, I immediately returned to LCSO where I have worked as a patrol deputy, narcotics detective, patrol sergeant, patrol lieutenant, patrol captain, undersheriff and sheriff." Also served as instructor, field training officer, field training coordinator and public information officer.
Political Experience/Affiliations: None, other than current candidacy for sheriff.
Other Community Involvement/Affiliations: Board member for Lebanon Chamber of Commerce (current), security detail volunteer for services at church; numerous community presentations at every rank, worked with Neighborhood Watch groups, youth groups and all of LCSO contract cities in a variety of ways.
Family: Married, with two adult children. Husband is retired federal probation officer. Adult son who is currently working at LBCC. Daughter attends Western Oregon University, aiming for career in law enforcement.
For More Info: Facebook - Duncan for Sheriff or duncanforsheriff.com
Jon Raymond, 49
Education: South Albany High School Graduate. Some college.
Professional Background/Work Experience: Four years in the U.S. Coast Guard as a machinery technician third class. Cross-training as boarding officer (USCG law enforcement) and emergency medical technician. Owner operator of JER 4x4 repair from 1995 to 2000. Six years as a basic certified corrections deputy working in Linn County Jail. Seventeen years as Linn County patrol deputy, mostly assigned to east Linn County. Currently assigned to Mountain Patrol as a senior deputy. Advanced certified police officer with 2,421 training hours. Linn County Search and Rescue incident commander and team member for over 20 years. Prior firearms instructor, tracking instructor, ATV instructor, Jail Tactical Team member, field training officer.
Political Experience/Affiliations: Republican with no prior political experience.
Family: Married for 26 years and have three daughters. Wife is a stay-at-home mom. Oldest daughter is employed full-time and is student at Oregon State University. Middle and youngest daughters attend Lebanon High School. Both on dance team.
For More Info: Raymondforsheriff.com | Raymond for Linn County Sheriff - on Facebook | on Raymond - You Tube | raymond_for_sheriff - Instagram
Why are you running for Sheriff?
Michelle Duncan: I have worked my way through the ranks, not necessarily expecting to become sheriff. However, I have never been the type of person that sat back hoping someone else will fix it, lead it or make it better. I have always had the initiative and drive to do my part. At each rank, I found I wanted to be more involved with the Sheriff's Office and learn more about how we are or could be serving our community with the best service. I found I wanted to help influence the culture here at Linn County Sheriff's Office making sure we do not lose our values and meet the level of excellent service our community expects and deserves. In more recent years, I have found law enforcement is facing very difficult times and needs someone with the leadership and experience to get us as law enforcement and the community we serve through it. In my career I have grown to love and have a real passion for this community. I have raised my children here who want to stay in this county, so keeping it a safe place to live is of the utmost importance to me. As the sheriff, I have the ability to help navigate our office through all the laws that are attempting to erode public safety, as well as have some influence on stopping more from coming our way. It is really about wanting to ensure this county gets the best public safety service.
Jon Raymond: As a taxpayer and deputy, I'm not happy with the service being provided by the sheriff. After years of watching the sheriff leave early and the next sheriff be appointed, I've seen the toll it has had on the Sheriff's Office. We need an elected sheriff who works for the citizens of Linn County. I feel it is time we end the "Good buddy system" and give a voice back to the people. The Sheriff's Office has plenty of managers, but lacks a true leader. I am running for sheriff to return honesty and service to the office of sheriff.
When did you join the Sheriff's Office? Why?
Jon Raymond: I started as a volunteer at the age of 14, with the Sheriff's Office Search and Rescue Post. This along with an uncle who was a deputy in California, fueled my desire to be a deputy. Responding to emergency's and getting to help people is what I knew I wanted to do for a living. Linn County is my home and I wanted to work for Linn County. In 1999, I was hired by Linn County as a correction deputy and in 2005 I transferred to our Criminal Division.
Michelle Duncan: In 1997. I have wanted to get into law enforcement since I was 14 and lived in Linn County as a child, so I wanted to serve with an agency in this area.
Please describe your view of the proper role of government and how your philosophy of government would impact how you carry out your responsibilities in leading the county's largest law enforcement organization.
Michelle Duncan: My primary role in government is providing public safety services. Fundamentally, my role is typically not to make laws or interpret laws; it is only to enforce them. I do have some ability to choose which laws are enforced by LCSO, but this does not mean I can violate the law, whether I agree with them or not. Police officers and deputies have always had discretion and should keep in mind what is important to their community when enforcing laws. For example, we live in a county that would rather we concentrate on speed enforcement than parking tickets. This is the discretion we should use, and the sheriff is the leader of the Sheriff's Office that sets this expectation and gives guidance to where discretion should be used. However, on laws like Measure 114, a gun control law that, among other things, limits gun magazine capacity to 10 rounds, I would not enforce this law at all if passed. The U.S. Supreme Court has already in essence ruled this part of Measure 114 as unconstitutional. I swore an oath to uphold the constitution and I cannot enforce something that has already been deemed unconstitutional by our highest court.
Jon Raymond: The role of government is to serve the people they work for. The primary role of a sheriff is to defend our God given rights. As sheriff, I will listen to the people we serve and ensure the Sheriff's Office provides the best service to the citizens. Decisions will be made thinking of those we serve first.
Operations of the Sheriff's Office, like nearly all government, revolve around funding – budgets and taxation. In general, how do you view the department's current financial situation? What changes, if any, need to be made now or down the road, and how would you go about doing so?
Jon Raymond: I feel the current budget suits our current needs well. We will need to focus 100% on supplying the service the taxpayers expect of the Sheriff's Office. Our operating levy plays a huge role in our financial survival. For years the levy has been passed on promises to reopen the jail, it is time we fulfill this promise. A close look needs to be taken at our current spending to see if it is necessary. We need to always look for fat to trim and ensure every dollar is spent responsibly.
Michelle Duncan: We are lucky that Linn County residents do not want to defund their law enforcement and have repeatedly passed our operating levy that funds over half of our office. This funding is adequate to fully fund public safety at the level we have had for many years. Currently, we are looking at funding an expansion to female jail bed space and expanding our 911 dispatch center. We are simply running out of room in both areas. We are currently awaiting a cost estimate of the female jail bed expansion to plan funding for this project in the near future. With that said, we have all seen ridiculous inflation rates and are now seeing the housing market slow. As the sheriff, I am personally responsible for maintaining a balanced budget from year to year. I am already anticipating and planning for the cost increases we are seeing as well as projecting out for the possibility of slower increases to property tax bases, which is where most of our funding comes from. Conducting careful analysis of future projections of tax collections and fiscal responsibility will give the Sheriff's Office the ability to maintain the current level of public safety services for our county even if the economy continues to slow.
Given public and political reaction in the last couple of years that have impacted law enforcement, how would you describe the personnel situation and morale in the Sheriff's Office? If you have concerns in that area, how would you address those?
Michelle Duncan: I have talked to other sheriff's offices and police departments across the state. With the tone of the news media towards law enforcement, COVID and laws making it more difficult to do our job, not one agency has seen a higher level of morale than they had five or 10 years ago. Most agencies have seen morale decline throughout their ranks. In addition, having an election here for the office of Sheriff of Linn County, with two internal candidates, has created division in our ranks. Employees are taking sides or simply wanting to stay out of it and just do their work. This has created tension amongst our employees. I started working on morale when I took the office of sheriff by offering to meet with employees to find out what their frustrations were so we could work on them. I also started one of the biggest pushes for hiring we have ever done at the sheriff's Office since much of the root of frustration is being short-staffed and overworked. I have hired over 20 personnel, including over a dozen deputies so far this year. Once these people are trained, they will help lessen the burden of our current employees, relieving some of that stress. Additionally, I have increased pay (within the ability of our budget), started a peer support team so employees have someone to reach out to if they are struggling with stress, trauma or any other issues that can affect them. We have participated in fun events such as softball, dodgeball and an employee picnic where employees can get together in a fun setting to build camaraderie. After the election, I plan on continuing to reach out, get employees' feedback on other ideas of what we can do to increase the level of morale at our office. I think another important task is setting a culture where they are reminded of the good work they are doing for our community and despite how difficult law enforcement has become, we are still needed and appreciated by those we serve.
Jon Raymond: Morale in the Sheriff's Office is the lowest I've seen it in my career. Very few of the morale issues are caused by the public. In Linn County we are treated very well by the public and we cherish this relationship. Morale is low due to a lack leadership and an overabundance of management. This same issue has made employee retention nearly impossible in patrol. We are constantly hiring new employees, but putting little to no effort into retention. I will return morale by giving employees a voice in their Sheriff's Office. I am the leader the employees of Sheriff's Office are asking for.
How well do you think the Sheriff's Office collaborates with local city and state law enforcement? If you have concerns in that area, how would you address those?
Jon Raymond: At the boots-on-the-ground level we have a great working relationship with most agencies. We cover each other on calls and assist when we can. But not having a functioning jail has created a wedge between jail staff and local agencies. The public perception is the police and courts are not doing their job when bad guys don't go to jail. Police officers and deputies get upset with the jail when they don't accept the bad guys they arrest. But the truth of the matter is the sheriff is responsible for the jail. The solution to this is to have a functioning jail that accommodates our needs. Fixing the jail will rapidly change public perception and remove the wedge between agencies.
Michelle Duncan: I have worked closely with local, state and federal agencies since I was a deputy. Those relationships have grown as I have moved through the ranks. As your sheriff, I have excellent relationships with all local police chiefs, our District Attorney and other county agencies such as Linn County Parks and the County Road Department, as well as the Linn County Commissioners. I will continue to foster these relationships to keep them positive so we can effectively serve our residents. In Linn County, we all work together to make this a safe and thriving community. With the other police agencies, we all know if the help is needed, we can call on each other to get the job done to keep this county a great place to live.
In the past, residents in east Linn County have complained about slow (or sometimes no) responses from the Sheriff's Office and lack of staffing committed to the most rural portions of the county. In your estimation, how well is the Sheriff's Office doing with providing law enforcement presence in east Linn County now? Are you aware of "pending" needs and, if so, what are they and how would you respond, if elected?
Michelle Duncan: Our current staffing levels have certainly impacted our ability to respond quickly to calls in all areas of the county. This is another reason why staffing is one of my top priorities. Once fully staffed, these slow responses will greatly decrease and we will have the ability to keep deputies in these assigned areas. Once our staffing levels are stable, I want to implement more community outreach at the rural level, but also at the city level. Although we have excellent relationships with the local police agencies, I believe as sheriff, I also need to build the relationships with the other city entities in Sweet Home and Lebanon. I hope to attend occasional city council meetings and to give these communities an opportunity to address any concerns or understand the service they are getting from the Sheriff's Office. I have already attended several events in both Sweet Home and Lebanon to begin to build the relationships outside that with their police departments.
Jon Raymond: As a resident of east Linn County, it scares me to think about my wife or children needing help. Our staffing numbers for patrol are the lowest I've seen. We are over promised and under delivering in many areas. Currently we have seven contract cities who pay for extra service. Those contracts are getting priority over rural Linn County. East Linn County is very big and has a heavy call load, yet it has traditionally been understaffed. I understand the needs of east Linn County after serving here for many years. As sheriff, I will cut out the red tape that bogs down deputies. I will adjust staffing as we fill vacancies, to better serve areas with high call loads.
In addition to any of the issues already touched on, what do you consider the most important issue(s)/challenge(s) facing the Linn County Sheriff's Office? As briefly as possible, how would you address it/those?
Jon Raymond: My first priority is to get the jail fully operational. In 2015, we passed a levy to fund the jail, including everything it takes to operate. It is time we utilize those funds to get back in full operation. This will not happen overnight, I will work with all staff involved to make an educated, reasonable plan. The jail is the backbone of the criminal justice system. We need a jail to lodge pre-trial offenders and the courts need a jail to lodge convicted offenders. Without a functioning jail, we cannot hold criminals accountable. We also need to increase our inmate work crew program. This program generates revenue and will off-set the cost of its expansion. We need to give the courts more sentencing options. The inmate work crew does just that. Offenders who are sentenced to the work crew would not be in-custody inmates; this eliminates any cost involved with housing, healthcare, and feeding them. Staffing of our 911 center has to be one of the most important issues to address. Staffing in the 911 center is critically low. The current staff is struggling to keep the 911 center operational. Dispatchers are reaching burnout and we need to address how to fix it. Calling 911 will do us no good if no one is there to answer. As sheriff, I will work with the dispatch employees to make a solid recruitment and retention plan. We will place a priority on getting these applicants through the hiring process in a timely manner.
Michelle Duncan: I am already working with Linn County Mental Health and the District Attorney's Office on implementing some programs to help get those in crisis or suffering from mental health disorders back on the path to treatment. Unfortunately, we, as law enforcement, are encountering individuals with mental health disorders at an alarming rate. Our deputies do a great job de-escalating these persons in the moment, but we need to have a path that helps facilitate them getting back into mental health services and treatment. The second biggest issue is the new laws our legislators keep passing that hinder our ability to provide public safety. I have spoken out publicly against laws like the proposed Measure 114 for gun control as well as the failures of Measure 110 that decriminalized most possession of hard drugs. I have also worked with our local legislators in offering them information they can use to combat more proposed laws that hinder public safety service. I am also working with our District Attorney and others on proposing new legislation that will help bring back our ability to keep our community safe.