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Rogue River hires new police chief, officer

ROGUE RIVER - After several months of using reserves to help staff its five-person police department, the city Thursday hired a new police chief and patrol officer.

Former Brookings police chief Kenneth Lewis will take the reins of the department, replacing Bob Long, who retired in July because of health problems after a 50-year career in law enforcement. Craig Plescia was given a permanent position as patrol officer after filling in as a reserve for the past eight months.

Lewis was selected from more than 20 applicants in a regional search that included background checks and extensive interviews.

"We had what I felt were 11 or 12 really strong candidates, so it was a really tough decision," said City Administrator Mark Reagles.

Lewis comes to Rogue River after three years in Brookings, part of a nearly 30-year career in law enforcement.

Lewis said he liked the city's proximity to the Rogue River and nearby forests.

"I love outdoor stuff," he said. "I'm just really into everything outdoors. Rogue River was the perfect place."

He began his law enforcement career as an officer with the Spokane Police Department in 1973. He went on to work as an investigative sergeant in Wrangell, Alaska, between 1979 and 1982; as an officer for the Bristol Bay Borough in Naknek, Alaska; and as sheriff of Benton County between 1982 and 1986.

He then served as police chief from 1986 to 1998 for the city of LaPush, Wash., until he moved to Brookings in 1998 and became police chief there.

Lewis said he expected to get to work as fast as he and his wife could find a home and move from the coast.

"Definitely in the next couple weeks," he said Thursday.

Plescia said he, too, chose a permanent position with the city because he liked the area.

"If it weren't for the city and the people here, I wouldn't have done it," he said.

Plescia received military police training in the U.S. Army and completed the Reserve Officer Law Enforcement Academy.

He has experience in several Oregon cities, including service as a clinical supervisor at an adolescent treatment center in Merlin. He has lived in the Rogue Valley for 15 years.

Buffy Pollock is a free-lance writer living in Medford. E-mail her at.