Grant County sheriff cleared by Department of Justice

Oregon Gov. Kate Brown, left, hugs former Grant County Sheriff Glenn Palmer in 2015 as they enter a meeting with homeowners in Canyon City. Palmer, who lost his bid for a sixth term as sheriff in November 2020, has taken a new job as a marine deputy with the Sherman County Sheriff’s Office.

JOHN DAY — Glenn Palmer, the former Grant County sheriff who had a controversy-riddled, 20-year stint in office, has taken a new job as a marine deputy with the Sherman County Sheriff’s Office.

Palmer lost his bid for a sixth term as sheriff in November 2020.

The Sherman County sheriff’s marine patrol is a seasonal operation responsible for providing boater safety services, doing boat inspections and conducting patrols along the county’s stretch of the Hood River.

“We advertised through the newspapers and we advertised on our website,” said Sherman County Sheriff Brad Lohrey, who added it’s not an easy position to fill. “We got one applicant and that was him.”

The marine patrol is a part-time position that is only staffed Friday, Saturday and Sunday from the end of May to Sept. 1.

Palmer, a self-described “constitutional sheriff” who believes the sheriff occupies the highest executive position in the county, made a name for himself when he met with leaders of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge occupation in 2016. Palmer called the armed militants “patriots,” even as they barricaded themselves inside government buildings with a wide array of weapons.

During his tenure, Palmer also deputized his brother, along with nearly 70 other Grant County residents without law enforcement training, refused to enforce state gun laws, and allegedly used his power to intimidate people who challenged him or his political viewpoints.

Numerous complaints have been lodged against Palmer since 2016. He briefly offered his resignation in 2019 after a retired Oregon State Police trooper filed an ethics complaint alleging Palmer had failed to return his stolen property. Palmer quickly rescinded his resignation and stayed in office.

In August 2020, the Oregon Department of Public Safety and Standards declined to take action against Palmer stemming from that complaint.

Other complaints allege Palmer and his department had a policy of not enforcing restraining orders. A DPSST investigator determined the allegations were outside the agency’s jurisdiction.

Boaters from Portland and along the Columbia River Gorge this summer might interact with Deputy Palmer, who has recently taken to social media to make fun of Black hairstyles, mock President Joe Biden’s stutter, undermine COVID-19 restrictions, and spread misinformation about vaccines. On May 2, the day before starting in his new role, he called Democrats “the enemy in our midst.”

Eighteen percent of Sherman County voters and 30% of neighboring Wasco County voters are registered Democrats.

Palmer did not immediately return phone calls seeking comment.

Palmer’s social media activity, however, walks a fine line with Sherman County department policy, which restricts what can be said in an official capacity or while representing the department.

“I will look into it,” Sheriff Lohrey said. “I haven’t looked at his Facebook page, if he has one, in forever.”

Lohrey said checking social media is part of the department’s normal hiring process, but he wasn’t sure if Palmer’s had been reviewed by the undersheriff who oversaw the hiring.

Lohrey has also come under fire for his own social media use. In 2018, he took to the department’s Facebook page to post a photo of a local activist who had angered the jail commander when she placed a protest sign next to her table at a restaurant where the two were eating.

In the post, Lohrey called the activist’s actions disgusting. She soon after received death threats against her and her children.

At the time, Lohrey said he would only take the post down if she apologized.

Palmer started training with the Sherman County Sheriff’s Office on May 3 and will start patrol Memorial Day weekend.

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