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A former deputy who is in the midst of three lawsuits against the Clark County Sheriff’s Office is kicking into gear his campaign to lead the agency.
Ed Owens said that his experience of being fired from the agency was a catalyst for running for sheriff, a race for which three others have publicly announced their candidacy.
Owens worked as a Clark County sheriff’s deputy for seven years until he was fired in November 2011. More than a year prior, Owens’ 3-year-old son, Ryan, got into a safe at his family’s Battle Ground home and fatally shot himself with a pistol. An investigation into the accidental death concluded that Owens violated a number of county policies.
In a wrongful termination lawsuit, Owens alleges that he was fired for questioning the safety of gun safes issued by the sheriff’s office. In another lawsuit, Owens alleges that the county was negligent in selling Owens a defective gun safe. A third lawsuit was filed in an attempt to obtain public records associated with the safes.
“These lawsuits wouldn’t be necessary if the law would have been followed and things would have been done the right way,” he said.
Though he couldn’t go into detail because of the ongoing lawsuits, Owens said that the experience made him want to create change in the law enforcement agency. He said part of that change should be more involvement by the county’s residents in processes such as hiring and internal reviews.
“There are people frustrated with the service they’re receiving,” he said. “The citizens have a seat at the table at the sheriff’s office and right now they’re not there. I want to make sure they are involved in the process.”
Owens, 44, is running on a nonpartisan platform because he said “when you call 911, our job is to respond … that does not involve politics.”
Owens graduated from the U.S. Air Force Security Police Academy and retired as a first sergeant. He previously worked for Saint Martin’s University as the chief of campus safety and security and led the Washington State University Vancouver public safety department before joining the Clark County Sheriff’s Office.
Since leaving the sheriff’s office, he went back to school, earning a bachelor’s degree in criminal justice.
“My entire career has prepared me well for this,” he said. “I have the breadth of experience, and I have the leadership experience at the executive level.”
Owens works as an instructor at the American Red Cross and also works as a coach in the Battle Ground High School ROTC program.
He is holding a kickoff event from 6 to 9 p.m. April 22 at Barberton Grange, 9400 N.E. 72nd Ave., in Vancouver.
Owens will face off against Sgt. Shane Gardner, also running on a nonpartisan platform, and two retired sheriff’s office commanders, John Graser and Chuck Atkins, both running as Republicans.
Sheriff Garry Lucas, 71, has given no indication as to whether he will run for his seventh term as sheriff, but the filing period for the election runs from May 12 to 16.
The sheriff oversees a staff of 396 employees, earning $104,244 a year for a four-year term.