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Choose new sheriff carefully

Jackson County Sheriff Corey Falls' confirmation that he has accepted a job with the Gresham Police Department midway through his first term in office came as a surprise. County commissioners should take the time to find the best replacement to lead the department through 2018.

Falls had a reputation for thoughtful, responsible leadership when he won the job in the 2014 election, defeating incumbent Sheriff Mike Winters and sheriff's Lt. Bob Sergi. Falls previously served as deputy chief of the Ashland Police Department.

Since taking over the sheriff's office, Falls has worked to change the culture of the department while allocating scarce budget dollars where they can do the most good. Most recently, he has been working to get the bottom floor of the jail reopened, providing 62 more beds to house inmates.

Falls has used cutting-edge national research to promote changes in his department, shifting attitudes from a "warrior" mentality to a "guardian" mentality while working to rebuild the public's trust and convince residents that deputies are there to protect them.

On the budget front, Falls made a gutsy but justified decision to end the department's support for an elaborate video security system at Shady Cove School installed by his predecessor. The system, not provided to any other school in the county, was monitored from the sheriff's department. Falls reasoned it made more sense to have deputies on duty in the vicinity of the school than to rely on monitoring the system from 18 miles away.

Gresham city officials clearly saw qualities in Falls they think can benefit their department. His newly created position will be director of police services, where he will be tasked with strategic planning and implementing 21st century policing initiatives, reporting to the city manager.

Falls hasn't responded in detail about his reasons for leaving, but the move appears to be motivated by family considerations. We wish him well.

Falls' departure will leave county commissioners with the job of filling the key post. The county charter does not specify a process for replacing the sheriff, so the commissioners could simply offer the job to someone they think is qualified, or establish a thorough process to evaluate applicants. We hope it's the latter.

The county's top law enforcement officer is an important job — too important to be filled in a hasty or haphazard fashion. And the person selected will have an obvious advantage going into the 2018 election, so it's important to choose wisely. The commissioners should name a temporary replacement from within the department and then conduct a thorough search for someone to serve the remainder of Falls' term.