The Oregon attorney general has opened a criminal investigation of a county sheriff for punching a handcuffed suspect, and several other incidents of excessive force.
In July, 2015, Oregon Department of Justice (DOJ) investigators interviewed several Klamath County sheriff's deputies about several incidents involving Klamath County Sheriff Frank Shah, according to Becky Gallagher, an attorney hired by the union to represent the deputies. DOJ spokespersons Kristina Edmunson and Michael Kron also confirmed that there is an ongoing investigation, but declined to elaborate on what it is about or what prompted it. Three other sources confirm that DOJ is investigating Shah for excessive force, including punching a handcuffed suspect.
Shah, a former Los Angeles police officer and California judicial department
investigator, was elected Klamath County sheriff in November 2012.
On August 21, 2015, seven of the county's 30 deputies requested that County
Commissioners place them on leave because of retaliation, said Klamath County Commissioner Kelley Minty Morris. Another deputy joined them a day or two later.
"The Klamath County Peace Officers Association went to the county and asked for some protection for its members," confirmed Gallagher. "Deputies who asked to go on leave are all the ones interviewed by the Oregon Department of Justice as part of their criminal investigation of the sheriff." They requested leave because of "retaliation and workplace harassment by the sheriff," according to Gallagher.
On August 24, 2015, the county commissioners placed the eight deputies on non-disciplinary paid administrative leave at their request, said Morris. She declined to discuss why.
At least one deputy has also filed an unfair labor practice complaint with the Oregon Employment Relations Board because of Shah's actions, according to Gallagher.
Shah issued a statement confirming that county officials told him that eight deputies including five patrol deputies — were put on paid administrative leave, but he was not consulted. Skrah declined further comment.
"The board of commissioners is currently assessing whether this puts us at risk in terms of being able to protect public safety," said Morris. However, reports that the County is has asked the Oregon state police (OSP) to temporarily take over sheriff’s office management are not accurate, she claimed, noting that the sheriff must make such a request.
Nevertheless, OSP is considering steps to increase its presence in Klamath County, said OSP spokesman Kyle Bove. "We will continue to help that sheriff’s office however we can."
Sources: Associated Press. The Oregonian/Oregonlive
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