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Winters represents a step backward

Mike Winters' decision to apply for his old job as Jackson County sheriff came as a bit of a surprise, because he didn't appear to want the job badly enough to finish campaigning for re-election two years ago. The Jackson County Board of Commissioners should thank Winters politely for his interest and choose someone else.

Winters is one of six candidates who have applied for appointment to complete the final two years of Sheriff Corey Falls' term. Falls has accepted a position as director of 21st century policing for the city of Gresham; his last day is Friday.

Winters was sheriff for 12 years, his tenure marked by costly court battles over concealed handgun licenses and disputes with deputies in his own department, many of whom opposed his re-election bid in 2014. Winters received only 30 percent of the vote in the May 2014 primary. Falls received 46 percent, falling just short of the 50 percent plus one vote that would have avoided a November runoff.

Winters did virtually no campaigning after the primary, eventually dropping out of the race in October and supporting Falls. His withdrawal came too late to remove his name from the November ballot, but he said he would serve four more years if voters elected him anyway. Falls won with more than 77 percent of the vote.

Since then, Falls has worked to modernize sheriff's department's procedures, training deputies in ethics and impartial policing, and has reached out to the Hispanic community. The union representing sheriff's office employees has praised Falls' leadership and his improved relationship with deputies. Union President Noah Strohmeyer said choosing Winters to replace Falls would be a step backward for the department.

We agree.

County commissioners will meet next week to decide how to proceed in selecting Falls' replacement. The commissioners previously were divided 2-1 against appointing a public panel to make recommendations, but incoming Commissioner Bob Strosser, who will be sworn in Tuesday, supports the panel, and he should provide a second vote to go along with that of Commissioner Rick Dyer.

The commissioners should appoint a panel, carefully consider the pool of applicants, and select one who will continue the progress Falls has made toward a community policing approach to law enforcement. Mike Winters is not the right choice.