Tag Archives: Sheriff Jeff Dickerson

Search for Missing Hunter Ends in Tragedy

A friend of the family helping in the search for missing hunter Jon Hill discovered the body of the Hillsboro man a little after 5:00 PM on Tuesday, September 24. He was found more than a mile away from North Fork Wolf Creek Road off Highway 26 where deputies had located his pickup truck on Sunday afternoon.

At 5:13 p.m. Tuesday, Columbia 9-1-1 dispatch received a 9-1-1 call from the family friend advising he had found the missing man and that he believed he was deceased. Deputies made their way to the location near Clear Creek Road. The caller met deputies at the intersection of Timber and Clear Creek Roads, leading them to the missing man’s body.

Columbia County Undersheriff Andy Moyer said officials delayed public notification until positive identification could be made and family members could be notified.

“Our hearts go out to the family and friends of Mr. Hill,” Moyer said. “We are glad he was found, although we are saddened by the fact that he was not found alive.”

Columbia County Searchers spent more than 50 hours in the rugged area off of US Highway 26 and Timber Rd searching for Mr. Hill.

Hill, who went bow hunting on Saturday, September 20, failed to return when expected on Saturday evening.  Family members received two phone calls from Hill on his cell phone on Sunday morning; one at 7:00 AM and one at 9:30 AM.  Hill was described as sounding “confused and disoriented” during that second phone call.  Hill was not heard from again. Read More

Washington County Man Remains Missing Near Vernonia

Columbia County Sheriff Jeff Dickerson updated the media on the search for John Hill who has been missing since Saturday evening  following a day of bow hunting.

Columbia County Sheriff Jeff Dickerson updated the media on the search for John Hill who has been missing since Saturday evening following a day of bow hunting.

Columbia County Sheriff Jeff Dickerson updated the media on Monday at 11:45 AM on the search for John Hill, the Hillsboro man who has been missing since Saturday evening.

Dickerson said Columbia County Search and Rescue has been joined in the search for Hill by personnel from Washington County, Multnomah County, Clatsop County and Yamhill County along with Mountain Wave Search and Rescue and volunteers from Pacific Northwest Search and Rescue.  Dickerson said approximately 60 people are now involved in the search for Hill.

The search is currently focused near milepost 35 on Highway 26 in an area of the Tillamook State Forest.  Hill’s vehicle was located  about 4.5 miles up North Fork Wolf Creek Road.

According to Dickerson, Hill failed to return from a day-long bow hunting trip on Saturday evening, September 20.  Dickerson said Hill contacted family members by cell phone on Sunday morning, once at 7:00 AM and again at 9:30 AM.  Dickerson said the second phone call raised concerns with Hill’s family, as Hill was “confused and  disoriented.”  Hill has not been heard from since.

Dickerson declined to comment on any personal health issues Hill may suffer from, and would not confirm, when asked, whether Hill is diabetic. Read More

Sheriff Cautions Public on Use of Force

SheriffDickersonUseofForce-webAbout thirty local residents gathered at the Vernonia Scout Cabin to hear a presentation on Use of Force and other firearms issues by Columbia County Sheriff Jeff Dickerson.

Dickerson’s message was very clear:  Citizens are within their rights to use deadly force only to protect themselves if they believe they are being threatened.

Dickerson stated that he “wholeheartedly” supports ownership of firearms, not just for sport, but for self-protection, but that a firearm should be considered a last resort.  “I carry my weapon all the time when I’m off duty, but I never want to have to use it,” said Dickerson. “I hope I never have to shoot someone.”

The presentation was the second meeting with local law enforcement officials organized by the newly formed ‘Vernonia Neighborhood Watch’ group.

Vernonia Police Chief Mike Conner has been working with the neighborhood watch group to provide information and local status updates on the Vernonia Police Department.  Conner invited Dickerson to speak at this second informational meeting.

Conner opened the meeting by briefly discussing local crime enforcement issues, before turning the meeting over to the Sheriff.

Dickerson took time to explain Concealed Carry License and Open Carry laws and other basic firearms rules and regulations.  Dickerson noted that Oregon is an Open Carry state, meaning citizens can openly carry their firearms in cities that have not passed an ordinance banning it.

Dickerson shared his own personal viewpoint on the Open Carry law.  “I’m pro Second Amendment and people’s rights,” explained Dickerson.  “But in order to keep those rights and not alarm the reactionaries, let’s keep it concealed.  My personal preference is that everybody just carried concealed.  Don’t draw attention to yourself.  That’s just my viewpoint.”

Dickerson pointed out that he almost always carries concealed when off duty in order to protect himself and his family.

“If I’m at the mall or out to dinner with my family and I see something bad happening, I’m not going to take my gun out and make an arrest,” said Dickerson.  “First of all, I’m not going to get shot without being prepared.  I don’t want to get into a gunfight.”

The main topic of the evening involved Dickerson explaining the use of force in protecting private property and answered questions throughout the evening about different scenarios for use of force.

Dickerson’s message concerning use of force was also very clear:  Citizens may not take the law into their own hands and use deadly force to protect property. “No, you can’t do that,” said Dickerson.  He used the example of someone going into your garage, taking some of your possessions and running away when you confront them.  “You can’t shoot them,” said Dickerson.  “They are committing one crime, trespassing, and potentially a second, burglary in the second degree, and your committing a homicide.  It doesn’t equal out.”

Dickerson was clear that if you are being physically threatened you are within your rights to protect yourself, but suggested that anyone who uses a firearm to protect themselves should expect significant legal and civil ramifications and actions, including civil lawsuits, investigations and expenses.

“If you end up having to use deadly physical force you have to be justified,” said Dickerson.

Chief Conner noted there is a large difference between a criminal trial and a civil trial.  “The burden of proof in a civil trial is far less than in a criminal trial,” said Conner.

Dickerson stated that sometimes people who use force have to do so because they make the situation worse by their own actions.  Dickerson called this scenario, “creating your own jeopardy.”  He used a real life example of an officer who jumped in front of an oncoming car, driven by a suspect in a crime, in order to hinder their getaway.  The officer claimed he had to shoot the driver because they were going to run him down.  “They said, ‘You didn’t have to shoot him because you didn’t have to jump in front of the car,’” explained Dickerson.

Both Conner and Dickerson emphasized that citizens should refrain from taking the law into their own hands and instead be a good witness.  They suggested getting good descriptions of any perpetrators including age, hair color and any clothing they are wearing,  as well as of any vehicles involved.  They suggested using a camera phone to take photographs.  “If you want to shoot someone, shoot them with your cell phone,” said Dickerson.

Dickerson addressed several issues during his hour discussion, including the current status of the Sheriff’s Department.  Dickerson also spent some time explaining the matrix the county jail uses to decide which prisoners they hold and which to release.  Dickerson noted that the jail is still not fully staffed following the passage of the jail funding levy this spring and is currently only housing twenty-five local inmates.  Dickerson says he hopes to have the jail fully operational and able to house 100 local prisoners by the end of the year.

For more information about the Vernonia Neighborhood Watch program go to vernoniawatch.org.  You can contact them at alert97064@gmail.com or by phone at 503-705-5751.

From the Sheriff: The Cost of Incarceration

Jails serve both as the community’s last resort for solving public safety dilemmas and as a critical piece to the overall criminal justice program in every county.

Whether or not we are forced to close our jail by this summer, I think it is important for the community to understand the purposes for incarceration and  the reason why it costs as much as it does to run a local corrections facility.

First, the reasons for incarceration are several. Many people see the jail as a place where we send local citizens convicted of crimes that do not merit a prison sentence, and, while that is true, there are a number of other reasons that have just as great of an impact on the overall livability of a community. Jails perform the vital criminal justice function of booking those accused of crimes—from murder to drug dealing, from rape to burglary, and from child abuse to domestic violence and other assaults on vulnerable victims—and then holding those so charged either until they can get before a judge to be arraigned (and held until trial if the charge is severe enough) or released with a date to appear in court.

Jails, then, also become the resting spots for those who fail to appear in court when they are supposed to and where they can be held until the judge sees them. Read More

Columbia County Jail Loses Lawsuit

A lawsuit levied against the Columbia County jail has awarded $15,000 to the Prison Legal News (PLN), a free publication that proclaims on its website that it is “protecting human rights.” These are the rights of convicted and alleged criminals who are incarcerated in county jails.  On their website, PLN advertises discounted telephone calls while in jail; books titled “Sue the Doctor and Win“ and “authentic videos shot in American prisons” where one video depicts inmates in Lowndes County, Georgia attacking a guard, taking his keys and escaping from jail. They go on to steal a vehicle.

Due to the shrinking budget at the Columbia County Sheriff’s Office, there aren’t enough guards to monitor the mail that comes into the jail and therefore the sheriff made a decision to go with a post card policy. Contraband is easy to hide in mail, such as envelopes and magazines. As you can imagine, criminals can be very creative when sending methamphetamine – a tiny amount of powder – buried in the mail, for instance. The jail requires a minimum of four guards on duty at all times, and they are currently at that level. This makes it impossible to pull a guard off the line to go through incoming mail to look for contraband. Read More

Town Hall Held to Discuss Impending Jail Closure

A Town Hall, hosted by Vernonia’s Voice, was held on Wednesday, March 12, to address concerns surrounding the closing of the Columbia County jail.  About fifteen people were in attendance.

All three Columbia County Commissioners, Tony Hyde, Earl Fisher, and Henry Heimuller, were part of the panel, along with Undersheriff Andy Moyer, representing the Sheriff’s Department.

Undersheriff Andy Moyer and County Commissioners Earl Fisher, Tony Hyde and Henry Heimuller were in Vernonia for a Town Hall March 12.

Undersheriff Andy Moyer and County Commissioners Earl Fisher, Tony Hyde and Henry Heimuller were in Vernonia for a Town Hall March 12.

Commissioner Hyde made it very clear at the outset of the meeting that the County intends to close the jail, and is already planning for that eventuality, as they begin their budget process for the upcoming 2014-15 fiscal year.

“This is not a threat,” said Hyde.  “It’s not ‘We may…’  We just went through some very difficult preliminary budget numbers today.  We are closing the jail.  Without a levy we are closing the jail; there are no options left.”

A citizens group “Keep Prisoners in Jail,” was formed early this calendar year to collect signatures, and petitioned the County Commissioners to place another bond levy on the May 20, 2014 ballot in a final attempt to halt the closure of the county jail.  The levy would tax Columbia County property owners $0.58 per thousand and provide the minimum revenue needed to continue jail operations for the next four years.

All three Commissioners agreed that this operation levy was a temporary, stopgap measure.  Hyde explained that there are current economic development projects happening in Columbia County. “Within four to five years I think we are going to be in really good shape as a county,” said Hyde.  “I really, honestly believe that.  We just have so much happening.  We have a lot of companies that are now starting to come into Columbia County.  But right now we have this gap we are up against.” Read More

An Open Letter From Columbia County Sheriff Jeff Dickerson

To Columbia County Citizens:

I am writing to you on my concern for the future of our jail and what I believe it will mean for our community.  While no one can know for sure the degree to which the loss of the county jail will impact the way we live, I do believe with all my heart that it will be worse than most of us imagine.

As we have seen our jail budget shrink over the last few years, and as we have publicized the early releases of inmates, there have been accusations of “scare tactics” being used to motivate voters out of fear.

I will tell you that I am fearful of what is coming if our jail closes—for the following reasons:

  • Taking people into custody on a wide variety of misdemeanor and felony charges will largely cease to occur. Last year, more than 1,200 local police arrests were lodged in our jail. Next year, police officers will still arrest and file charges, but they will not be able to find jail space anywhere to hold most law breakers, even for just one night.
  • I believe this will cause two things to happen — 1) local people who do not like to play by the rules will be emboldened to flagrantly violate the law, knowing there will be no repercussions, and 2) we will attract the criminal element from outside our county, who will also be emboldened in the same manner.
  • Crime will increase, and it will be felt. I do not know to what degree it will occur, but I am sure we will all know about more and more instances of lawlessness inflicted upon our community.
  • Finally, at some point, there will be a call to fund our jail—only the cost will be roughly double to the taxpayer than it would have been if we had just kept it open all along.  The reason is the federal prisoners who subsidize our jail (to the tune of $1.5 to $2.1 million per year) will all be gone, along with the revenue they bring in, and taxpayers who have gotten a state of the art, well-run, efficient and effective facility without paying the total cost of the operation, would then be forced to pay the entire amount.

These are not scare tactics, but they are facts that are scary. It is not my intent to overdramatize the risks, or to “advertise to criminals” that it will be open season in Columbia County. The fact is the criminals already know these things.  I believe it is my duty as your sheriff, to warn you what the future holds according to my many years of law enforcement experience.  I am committed to executing the will of the people with the resources committed to our care, and we are prepared to close our jail if voters this spring decide not to keep it open with the additional taxes we need to do it.  I want to thank those citizens who worked hard gathering signatures to convince our commissioners to give voters one last chance to keep our jail open.  I fully believe that if our jail closes, and a year from now we look back at the vote in May, we will not be blaming the commissioners at all for giving it one last try.  If you have any questions, you can contact me through Facebook or e-mail me at jeff.dickerson@co.columbia.or.us.

Sheriff Jeff Dickerson

Voters Reject Jail Levy

Columbia County voters have rejected Measure 5-234, the Levy for Jail Operations.

With 100% of precincts counted, the unofficial results from the Special Election on Tuesday November 5 was 41.70% in support of the levy and 58.30% against.

“On one hand, we are disappointed tonight in the results of the election, on the other hand, the voters have clearly made their collective will known,” said Columbia county Sheriff Jeff Dickerson.  “This result brings us to decision time at the County, and I will be meeting as soon as possible with the Board of Commissioners to chart our path forward. Thank you to all who continue to support our mission—whether or not you voted or didn’t vote for this levy. We are here to serve at your pleasure, and will continue to do the best we can with the resources committed to our care.”

Measure 5-234 was the only item on the ballot for Columbia County voters.  Total voter turnout was 42.7 %.

Columbia County Forced Jail Releases

From Columbia County Sheriff Jeff Dickerson:

“In an effort to keep the community informed on our forced releases from our jail, the attached graphic will be produced weekly to show the previous week’s (Sunday through Saturday) forced releases.”