News and Opinion from Sisters, Oregon

Candidates vie for sheriff’s office

Two candidates are vying for the office of Deschutes County Sheriff. As the only two candidates filed, they will bypass the May 19 primary election and face off in November.

Bend Police Officer Scott Schaier is challenging incumbent Sheriff Shane Nelson for the position that Nelson has held since being appointed by the Deschutes County Commissioners in 2015 and then elected by voters in 2016.

Nelson recently presided over the negotiation of a significantly revised contract with the City of Sisters for law enforcement services. The $661,200 base contract calls for Sisters to have a dedicated force of one lieutenant and three deputies, with an emphasis on building relationships between the Sisters-assigned deputies and members of the community.

The lieutenant will report to the DCSO command, but will work closely with City officials.

“I’m excited about it,” Nelson told The Nugget. “I think this is going to be a great opportunity not just for the City but for the residents out here.”

Nelson is sheriff in one of the fastest-growing counties in the nation, and he said his office is continuing to develop proactive programs to enforce the law and maintain the quality of life that draws people here. In 2018, DCSO created the Community Action Target Team, or CATT, to work on quality-of-life issues. CATT focuses on locations within Deschutes County needing additional enforcement to deal with issues such as distracted driving, drugs, theft, trespass and criminal mischief.

Quality of life issues are significant matters in Sisters Country.

“We want to focus on livability out here,” Nelson said.

He noted that DCSO has doubled its number of marijuana enforcement detectives to crack down on activity that falls outside cultivation and sales that are legal in Oregon and the County.

“It’s their job to make sure that illegal, black market activity is curtailed,” he said.

Nelson acknowledged that there have been several high-profile firings, reprimands and other personnel issues in his department since he took the helm, creating an impression in some quarters that DCSO is a department in turmoil.

“That’s because we talk about it,” Nelson said.

He believes that the public has a right to know about personnel issues to the degree authorized under the law.

“We employ human beings, just like anybody else,” he said. “I don’t expect them to be perfect, but we will deal with personnel issues as they come up.”

He said DCSO is improving supervisory training and professional development, with an emphasis on working efficiently with different demographics, providing good customer service, employee wellness, and character and ethics.

“If folks want to work with the Sheriff’s Office, I want them to be in line with the mission and values of the Sheriff’s Office,” He said. “That’s huge. That’s key.”

Schaier began his law enforcement career with the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department and since moving with his wife to Central Oregon in 2013, he has served with the Bend Police Department as a patrol officer, training officer, and as a member of the Central Oregon Emergency Response Team. He was serving as a school resource officer until the COVID-19 school closures and is now back on patrol.

Schaier believes he can be a change agent at the Deschutes County Sheriff’s Office.

“The culture of that agency is in dire need of change right now,” he told The Nugget.

Schaier cited a recent inmate death in the jail, several lawsuits and personnel dismissals and what he perceives as a lack of collaboration with other agencies as evidence of a need for change.

He believes that bringing up personnel who have served with the agency for decades means “falling into the same rhythms over and over.”

You’re just a product of your environment,” he said.

Schaier acknowledges that he has no administrative experience in law enforcement — but he sees his background as an advantage. He worked in the hospitality industry out of high school, where he learned to build teams, and in the automotive industry at a Nissan dealership in Long Beach, California, where he managed personnel and budgets. And he worked for a very large municipal police department in a highly diverse and challenging environment in Las Vegas.

“I have, I believe, a unique background and experience that I think would serve Deschutes County well,” he said.

Schaier told The Nugget that the on-duty December 2016 shooting of 31-year-old Michael Jacques was “without a doubt not only the worst day of my career, but the worst day of my life.”

An Oregon Department of Justice investigation concluded there wasn’t sufficient evidence to find Schaier criminally liable. In 2018 the City of Bend’s insurance company paid an $800,000 settlement to Jacques’ family.

The officer told The Nugget that he was not privy to the reasoning behind the settlement.

He said that the incident affirms two priorities for him: addressing the growing incidences of mental health crises law enforcement personnel interact with, and preserving officer and deputy well-being.

“When I’m elected sheriff, one of the things that I’m going to implement is a mental health team county-wide,” he said.

Schaier said that he is “happy that there’s going to be focus in the Sisters community” with the enhanced services provided under a new contract.

He said that he would have made community policing and dedicated deputies a priority by “(making) the Sisters area a special assignment detail.”

In any case, he wants to see a consistent roster of deputies engaged with the community.

“I think that special touch is what Sisters needs,” he said.

The candidates will potentially participate in public Q&A forums or debates during the summer and fall, as COVID-19 restrictions permit.

Author Bio

Jim Cornelius, Editor in Chief

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Jim Cornelius is editor in chief of The Nugget and author of “Warriors of the Wildlands: True Tales of the Frontier Partisans.” A history buff, he explores frontier history across three centuries and several continents on his podcast, The Frontier Partisans. For more information visit


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