Two days after our story about the poor treatment of alleged rape victim Valarie Smith was published, Captain Sean Sanborn of the Coos County Sheriff’s Office posted an almost 1,000-word missive on the department’s Facebook page. After peeling away the football metaphors his essay can be pared down to three things:

  • Officers in the field make tough decisions without the benefit of instant replays.
  • Civilians must not Monday morning quarterback these decisions. Just trust us, we know what we’re doing.
  • If justice isn’t served, blame the district attorney.

The DA’s office certainly deserves to shoulder some blame but Sheriff Gabe Fabrizio continues to make unforced errors by refusing to answer basic questions about how he runs his department. For example, what policies and procedures, general orders, are in place to deal with sexual assault and domestic violence victims? Then he and his leadership team ignore concerns raised by alleged victims indicating an infusion of gender bias toxicity festering within the agency.

Perhaps because it is hard to fill law enforcement vacancies, it appears to be an area practice to hold on to personnel despite them demonstrating they are not suited for the job. Coquille Officer Clayton Makinson comes to mind as a recent example, and of course James Bryant from the not-too-distant past. Retaining substandard officers does nothing to instill public confidence in the agencies or their leadership.

It remains to be seen how Measure 6-213 seeking to levy county property owners up to $6 million a year to increase the number of deputy district attorneys and jail beds will make victims of law enforcement bias and investigatory inadequacy safer.



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