Leadership in law enforcement


Last updated 1/30/2024 at 10:10am

This year’s election cycle sees Captain William Bailey and Sergeant Kent Vander Kamp vying for the only elected law enforcement leadership position in Deschutes County. I know both candidates and have privately expressed to both my respect and admiration for their service to our community at large and their stepping up to the plate to run for office.

As a leader at any level in an organization one’s first concern must be your ethical bearing. The word Ethics comes from the Greek word Ethos, meaning “self.” This is the Self as seen by others. For police officers this is your performing, or professional Self. Ethics, or professional performance, is a simple concept. You must be what it is you represent, on or off the job.

All too often those among us who have been elected to wear the gold distinction of rank and authority behave in ways that diminish their professional credibility, either behind closed doors or on the street. Police administrators who backstab their employees, or who routinely engage in the personal and professional destruction of a colleague are known by all officers, employees, and sooner or later by voters.

A candidate’s electoral reputation is the sum of what his or her peers and those in the community remember you as having said or done while under the authority of your agency.

If you are a promising leader in the future, you must begin building your professional resume and reputation by being careful and consistent about what you say and do. The past is never quite forgotten and our foibles are never quite forgiven. Even so, our bosses, our peers, and the public do extend great rewards to those who recognize their shortcomings, and actively seek to correct their faults.

During the 2016 and 2020 campaigns for Sheriff, both challengers to the sitting Sheriff were found and proven to have embellished their professional credentials and accomplishments. Both are no longer in law enforcement for their own reasons. Both of their campaigns boasted of their individual integrity, honesty, and leadership training and accomplishments while lambasting the same of their opponent. In 2024, this form of campaign strategy has outworn itself, and is unwanted by a large number of voters.

Hopeful candidates for the office of Sheriff might make a note here: If your campaign chooses to tell us you are in the same league as someone running a private corporation — you are wrong. If you want to be in business then hang up your badge and gun and invest in a hamburger franchise. Police work is service work! Service work is people work. If you cannot serve your people as a supervisor or chief or Sheriff you are slowly killing your department or agency, and therefore your community.

Kent Vander Kamp and William Bailey are the first two candidates in many years to enjoy the freedom to run for this important office sans any meaningful backing from a sitting Sheriff. Yes, Sheriff Nelson endorses Bill Bailey. But Nelson likewise declared himself a political lame duck many months ago. By doing so he opened the door to the current candidates to run their own race based on their own merits and vision for the future.

Integrity, honesty, leadership…these are all a given in law enforcement. Both the military and Oregon’s Department of Public Safety Standards and Training (DPSST) teach these critical ethical and moral skill sets. Anyone can do a search of DPSST’s current officer training records and discover these career-building milestones for themselves.

What are voters truly concerned about?

I offer we want to hear specific thought processes about local, state, and federal law enforcement issues that may affect us in Deschutes County. If a candidate is unsure about what these might be then it behooves both to provide a communications platform where our questions, concerns, observations, and experiences can be sent to you. And then respond in the public forum, on the record, and in a timely manner. Understand you will be held accountable for your campaign behavior at the ballot box.

And please do not repeat the campaign strategies of past candidates who put finger-pointing, misinformation, and misdirection above introspection.

We have had enough of that and expect more from our candidates in 2024.


Reader Comments(6)

Greg writes:

PDX based Nugget Reader should actually read the article before commenting - as his analysis does not at all reflect the content of the guest editorial - which encourages both candidates to address real county and community LE issues, challenges, and goals as opposed to worn out campaign rhetoric and finger-pointing.

Greg writes:

As the editor knows I have donated to both candidates' campaigns this year; and comment on both their FB pages; and communicate with each regarding my upcoming series Meaningful Metrics regarding serious LE issues affecting our county - and both are responsive - that said - ad hominim attacks are just that - the last refuge of shallow thinkers and folks who shun using their real names in a public forum.

NuggetReader writes:

The editor has allowed Walker to sling mud at the Sheriff's real (and percieved) opponents without fact checking or editorial oversight for too long. Shame on you Jim Cornelius for being the official state media of the highly embattled and many times loser in Federal court, Sheriff SHane Nelson. Both of you, stick to fantasy fiction.

Greg writes:

A review of the training records online (DPSST IRIS - available to the Public) shows Candidate Bailey's management training is multi-year and includes an Executive Level certificate - Candidate VK's like training is the lesser - Bailey has worked at all levels of the agency whereas VK has not - VK has a Masters Degree in Business - Bailey has an AA - Bailey has been an LE professional his entire career - VK worked for his family's consulting firm prior to relocating to OR and entering the profession. Easy to do the homework as a voter if truly interested.

Greg writes:

Interesting questions - Yes, my professional background includes working in corporate America to include a past Fortune 500 company; and I clearly stated I know both candidates, respect both candidates, and have communicated with both; and I am also friends with Sheriff Nelson and clearly noted his endorsement of Bailey and why its impact is limited; the content of my editorial is from my 2007 book on Leadership for LE professionals; prior to my retirement (2007) I had long been credentialed by DPSST to teach leadership/supervision; the Nugget does not publish contibutor bios so Thank you.

StuartBlalack writes:

Does the author actually have any significant experience in high-level management in the private sector? Is the author suggesting that private sector management experience has no relevance or bearing in the public sector? How does the author is known to be a close associate of Shane Nelson. How does heanswer the allegations of Shane Nelson actively campaigning for Bailey? What does the author think of Bailey limited education and management experience?


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