Sheriff re-reshuffles his reshuffled workforce

Among other changes, highly visible sergeant returns to outreach role

By Erik Hidle, Columbian staff writer

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One month after reassigning officers to keep up coverage levels on evening patrols, the Clark County Sheriff's Office is again shuffling the deck.

Clark County Sheriff's Office Sgt. Shane Gardner, who was transferred to patrol from his position as community outreach officer in August, sent an email to community members last week saying he will be back on his old beat.

"I will be transitioned back to Community Outreach next week," Gardner wrote. "While I am very excited to return and continue the work we have been doing together for the last (two) years, it isn't without a reduction in service in another area of our responsibility."

Gardner said in his email that Sgt. Dennis Pritchard, a marine patrol/traffic unit supervisor, is moving to the patrol position he was covering.

Sheriff Garry Lucas confirmed that change on Friday afternoon.

Lucas said the reason behind the switch is that he believes the need for marine patrol will taper off as the weather cools.

"We are still short that position (on patrol) but now we have an opportunity to move the marine sergeant on to that position," Lucas said.

Lucas said the reason for the shuffling remains the same as last

month: low funding levels for the department. The county budgeted $37.7 million for the sheriff in the 2013-14 biennium.

"I'm not comfortable with the level of manpower we have," Lucas said last month. "We are woefully understaffed. We have cut our specialized positions down to the bare bones."

Lucas said his intent is to present the staffing issues to commissioners at an upcoming work session.

In his email, Gardner reinforced Lucas' issue with the funding levels, saying the county ranks among the bottom among Washington counties when measuring the number of deputies per 1,000 residents.

Gardner's role in community outreach makes him a highly visible member of the Sheriff's Office, as he serves as liaison to Clark County's many neighborhood associations.

Gardner also heads the sheriff's Explorer program, which educates local youth on the criminal justice system and helps with potential career decisions. This year, Gardner received an award from the county for his work in community outreach.

Erik Hidle: 360-735-4547; http://twitter.com/col_clarkgov; erik.hidle@columbian.com