The west isn’t so wild here

 

Last updated 8/16/2022 at Noon

BILL BARTLETT

Deschutes County Sheriff’s Deputy Brian Morris.

Deputy Sheriff Brian Morris, who works out of the Deschutes County Sisters substation, was my host for several hours last Friday as I was approved for a ride-along. Morris lives in Sisters and has children in our schools, so he has a personal investment in keeping the streets safe — which, let’s face it, is a fairly easy task. Not exactly a hotbed of crime here in the village.

That does not mean there is not much to do. Tragedies do happen of course. It’s not a perfect world. Like three teenagers killed when their car swerved into a tree. Or a stabbing homicide in Cloverdale.

Morris and his fellow deputies find a steady pace of educational opportunities. He and his teammates see their job in protecting the community as largely soft-touch enforcement. Every stop is an opportunity for the offender to understand more fully the potential consequences of their actions.

We all make honest mistakes. Heck, I showed up for my appointment with him with expired plates, since remedied. Morris says that DMV has not been as prompt with renewal notices since COVID. He makes a good number of such stops, and unless you are flagrantly out-of-date, you’ll get a cautionary reminder and a home town smile, not a citation.

He leapt at the opportunity to serve here when the expanded contract with the City was sealed to provide more DCSO coverage. The model Sisters has employed with DCSO is now being developed in La Pine.

Not that he said it, but citations — tickets — are so yesterday in community policing. The goal is compliance, and compliance comes more easily with a carrot than a stick. Like the old saw goes, you catch more bees with honey.

Now, don’t take that as a license to do bad things. Just because we have little — very little — crime, that does not mean the streets are completely safe. Every year folks in Sisters tell surveyors that traffic safety is their number-one concern locally. And Morris’ workload is about half traffic, with speeding usually the worst offense, and that mostly on the Barclay bypass.

Today our first “action” — wait for it — was helping to corral a loose dog on East Washington. It was a wily critter, evading a half dozen humans for a dozen or more minutes. Eventually the crafty canine was captured.

Sorry, no felonies today, or most everyday, which is just the way Morris and the townfolk like it. I tried to make it more exciting with questions like “What about shoplifting?” Nope, he replied, a few cases in a whole year, kids.

We drove past Village Green, where set up was underway for the Rhythm & Brews Festival.

“Get much drunk and disorderly at night?” He subtly reminded me that the sidewalks roll up most nights long before 11 p.m.

Driving through the campground, full with summer tourists, Morris and I get waves from everybody. It’s the same all over town with pedestrians, and even many motorists.

Morris deftly works around the traffic. He sees everything. Things I am missing. At intersections he is unfailingly polite, always allowing the other guy to go first. That’s not for my benefit. That’s just the way we do things around these parts. It also makes people feel more comfortable with the law.

And the law, he is. The full-size SUV with its markings, lights, antennae, and push bar are imposing signs of authority. Inside is a warehouse of technology, so much that I have to squeeze in a bit carefully so as not to disturb the navigation system.

He introduces me to all the gear in the vehicle, which includes radar, front and rear cameras, a defibrillator, safety kit, a riot helmet — like he’s going to need that in Sisters — rifle, and a rubber bullet shotgun. With his vest, taser, sidearm, radios, bodycam, it’s a wonder he can fit behind the wheel — and he’s trim.

So you’re not going to mess with Morris unless you’re stupid or whacked out on drugs.

His is one of the few cars where the rear seat can accommodate more than one person. As many non-offending citizens as bad guys or drunks are given rides, like the family of three that got stuck in the snow.

It reminded me of a situation last week where I witnessed a DCSO deputy with a metal detector looking for lost car keys in a hayfield. OK, since you asked: A 4-H Club steer got out and took off, and in the pursuit the car keys were dropped in six-inch grass.

Morris advises that we should still lock our doors and close garage doors, however remote the likelihood of being a crime victim. Otherwise, just be aware, he says.

So, that’s life on a busy Friday ’roundabout Sisters.

 

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