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Involve the public in sheriff selection

The Jackson County commissioners haven't decided yet whether they will convene a citizens panel to help them choose a new sheriff, but there should be no question. Appoint a panel and do it soon.

Sheriff Corey Falls announced last month that he had accepted a position as director of police services and 21st-century policing for the city of Gresham. His last day is Dec. 30.

Falls was elected in 2014; his term lasts through 2018.

The county charter gives the commissioners the power to appoint a replacement to fill a vacancy, but does not specify how that should be accomplished. The commissioners could simply name a new sheriff, or take applications and appoint a panel to review them.

Commissioner Rick Dyer favors a community panel, suggesting it could include representatives of the public, law enforcement, the business community, the District Attorney's Office and Jackson County Mental Health, which works with the justice system on mental illness and substance abuse issues.

Commissioner Colleen Roberts said the commissioners can make the decision on their own without community input. Commissioner Doug Breidenthal said he was afraid a public panel could take too long. Breidenthal is leaving office at the end of the year. Bob Strosser, who will take over his seat, says he favors a public committee.

Dyer and Strosser are right for two reasons.

First, in his two years as sheriff, Falls has worked to implement community policing techniques, training deputies in ethics and fair and impartial policing in addition to the traditional weapons and driving courses. The department recently conducted a citizens academy in Spanish, in an effort to reach out to the Hispanic community.

The union representing sheriff's employees issued a statement praising those efforts and adding that Falls has fostered a more collaborative relationship with employees as well, all things that should be maintained under a new sheriff.

A public review committee would serve as a recognition that those changes are important and worth continuing.

Second, for better or worse, the Jackson County sheriff is an elected position. The sheriff answers to the public, not to the Board of Commissioners. The commissioners may have the power to name a replacement, but not to tell that person how to run the department.

The voters will have their say in two years. In the meantime, it's only fair to let the public participate in choosing an interim sheriff to serve out Falls' term — and continue the progress he has made.