Steven McDaniel likes his fit with the Umatilla County Sheriff’s Office.
“Mainly, what I’ve done has been some form of helping people,” he said.
At 38 he has almost 20 years of service in the Oregon National Guard and pilots helicopters for the military’s aviation unit at the airport in Pendleton. He worked in Afghanistan as a contractor for a transport company and served in 2005-06 in the war in Afghanistan. McDaniel also worked as a corrections officer at Eastern Oregon Correctional Institution and the Umatilla County Jail, both in Pendleton.
Umatilla County Sheriff Terry Rowan said McDaniel exemplifies what the sheriff’s office is looking for as it develops its staff. Rowan is a full year into his second term, and beefing up the patrol and criminal division has been a primary focus of his job.
“Our approach has been to find candidates with character traits that meet our core values, combined with a balance of skill set, work ethic and maturity,” Rowan said. “We are trying to maintain a balance between and within our ranks. Some of the new hires have deep skill sets, others have several years working in public safety, while others are just beginning their careers in public safety. The more veteran deputies bring experience to aid us in training the newer ones.”
McDaniel is married with two boys, ages 10 and 13. He said he applied in the past for a deputy job, and when an opening came along the sheriff’s office hired him in August 2016. He graduated from the lengthy basic police course at the Oregon Public Safety Academy, Salem, wrapped up the sheriff’s office field training program and has been solo since April. He also still has to meet obligations with the Guard.
“I juggle,” he said.
The support he said he receives from the sheriff’s office makes that possible.
McDaniel also said he has a private drone pilot’s license and is eager to bring his piloting skills to the sheriff’s office drone program.
The county has used its drone program to help deliver food to stranded hunters and peer into burning structures. McDaniel said the remote-controlled aerial vehicles also can enhance officer safety, allowing police, for example, to scout a place before a drug raid.
Rowan said in an email the county funded seven patrol deputies when he won the sheriff’s post in 2012, but soon after taking office two retired and two were on long-term medical leave.
“Today,” Rowan stated, “we have 15 patrol deputies, our most recent hire was Roy Swiger, bringing our patrol division to full staff.”
Swiger joined the sheriff’s office Nov. 1 and began his law enforcement career in 1998 as a reserve officer with Milton-Freewater, according to the sheriff’s office. Other recent hires include deputy Rowen Hayes, who came with more than 27 years of law enforcement experience.
That depth is going to matter. Nathan Good retired as a senior deputy in July after 28 years with the sheriff’s office, and Harry Hockett retired on Monday after 18 years as a court security officer. Hockett was a Pendleton officer for 27 years before that.
The sheriff’s office this year also lost two long-serving members.
Greg Hodgen in 2006 retired from the Multnomah County Sheriff’s Office and established Umatilla County’s Rural Neighborhood Watch program, which boasts more than 700 members. And Jesse Villarreal died in October. He worked for the office from November 1997 until October of 2016 and was a fixture of courthouse security and jail transport.
Improving the jail also remains an ongoing theme. The sheriff’s office hired Deb Green on Nov. 1 as a corrections service specialist to teach cognitive classes and drug and alcohol classes inside the jail. The sheriff’s office teamed up with the county’s community justice department to use a state Justice Reinvestment Grant to fund the new position. Green taught cognitive-based curriculum at the two state prisons in the county and for the last year was an alcohol and drug counselor for the jail.
While McDaniel said he grew up all over, he calls Pendleton home. Retirement from the military is on the horizon, he said, and the sheriff’s job offered him and his family more stability.
The doesn’t mean boring. Each day on the job comes with a range of situations and people, some of whom don’t want to deal with a cop. McDaniel said he doesn’t take that personally.
“Just like anything else, people want respect, and you try to treat them with respect,” McDaniel said. “You’re not always the good guy.”
So far, he said, that attitude has worked.
Contact Phil Wright at firstname.lastname@example.org or 541-966-0833.