Brush Prairie boy, 6, is 'Chief for a Day'

Sheriff's office honors boy who works to help other cancer patients

By Patty Hastings, Columbian breaking news reporter

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photoCole Merle, 6, sits in a Peacekeeper armored police vehicle Tuesday outside the Mill Creek Pub in Battle Ground, where he was sworn in as an honorary sheriff through Clark County's Chief for a Day program. Top: Merle, 6, is congratulated by Clark County Chief Criminal Deputy Mike Evans on Tuesday after being sworn in as an honorary sheriff. Cole was diagnosed with cancer in 2011 and is in remission.

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Six-year-old Cole Merle was sworn in as honorary sheriff Tuesday evening before family members, reporters and law enforcement at the Mill Creek Pub in Battle Ground.

"Raise your right hand," Clark County sheriff's Chief Criminal Deputy Mike Evans told Cole. "That would be your other right hand."

Cole's mother, Ann Hackman, said the boy has been talking every day about being honorary sheriff since he was selected for Clark County's Chief for a Day program in September. The program allows the sheriff's office to honor children who have faced adversity.

In December, after years of on-and-off cancer treatment at Doernbecher Children's Hospital in Portland, Cole raised money to buy stuffed animals for other kids in the hospital's inpatient oncology wing.

Evans said Tuesday that the spirit of law enforcement is to serve others at your own sacrifice, and "Cole has that same spirit."

As he was sworn in, the Brush Prairie boy promised to uphold the laws of the United States and the state of Washington. Then he signed a certificate and let his mom pin his badge on for him. He declined to give a speech.

Cole was 4 years old when his father found a large tumor on his kidney. Doctors suspect it was a Wilms' tumor, a rare form of kidney cancer primarily affecting children. Cole's tumor was removed in September 2011, but that surgery also revealed that the cancer had metastasized, leaving more than 100 cancerous spots on his lungs.

After the surgery, Cole underwent outpatient chemotherapy treatment, then another surgery to remove part of a lung, then more intensive chemotherapy. Doctors ended that treatment in November, more than a year earlier than scheduled, because his bone marrow was taking longer and longer to recover from the treatments.

Although Cole is currently in remission, he has a CT scan every three months to check for cancer.

Cole's Christmas Furry Friend Fund raised $1,205, Hackman said, allowing him to donate stuffed animals to children not just at Doernbecher but also at Randall Children's Hospital in Portland and through Candlelighters for Kids with Cancer, an Oregon-based nonprofit organization. To help with his effort, the sheriff's office gave the family a box full of Beanie Babies to deliver to Doernbecher on Thursday, when Cole has his next checkup.

After the swearing-in ceremony Tuesday, Cole went outside the restaurant to check out a Peacekeeper, an armored vehicle. He asked that the emergency lights be turned on and took the liberty of running the sirens with his friends.

"Uh … hi," he said over the vehicle's intercom.

Throughout the year, Cole will be an ambassador for the sheriff's office and attend various events, including a police dog training at the end of the month.