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Ex-DCSO workers claim discrimination, harassment; Sheriff Nelson responds

BEND, Ore. (KTVZ) -- Several women who formerly worked for the Deschutes County Sheriff's Office spoke out Monday about what they called a history of gender discrimination, harassment and abuse -- claims refuted by Sheriff Shane Nelson, now up for re-election.

Nearly 30 women gathered in the commons near Mirror Pond to stand in solidarity.

They said they experienced incidents of hazing, promotional and hiring discrimination, abusive language and retaliation while working at the sheriff's office. And they said it's time the community is told what's going on.

In a media advisory about the news conference, organizers of the "Deschutes Women Speak Out" group said:

"Allegations include incidents of hazing, promotional and hiring discrimination, abusive language, and retaliation. Women coming forward will share examples of a historical pattern wherein Sheriff's Office employees, under the leadership of Shane Nelson, failed to recruit, hire, train, and promote female employees, and how he fostered a work environment of fear and intimidation by engaging in abusive behavior themselves, as well as by failing to condemn acts of gender discrimination by other male employees.

"While some of the women have previously filed reports against the Sheriff’s Office, none have spoken about any of the incidents publicly until now for fear of retaliation. With the support of prominent female community leaders, including Mayor Sally Russell and Reverend Morgan Schmidt, they have agreed to share their experiences as part of a collective effort to demand accountability at the Deschutes County Sheriff’s office."

Rabbi Johanna Hershenson of the Central Conference of American Rabbis said, "I think there is fear of retaliation and exhaustion from hitting brick walls and being dismissed."

"This is an election season, everyone is attentive," she added. "We're in pandemic modes, and we're watching lots more TV. This is one of those areas, we have to get it right."

Bend Mayor Sally Russell and City Councilor Genna Goodman-Campbell also were at the event to voice support, saying inequality and discrimination of any kind should not be tolerated.

Voting is well underway in a hard-fought race between Sheriff Shane Nelson and challenger Scott Schaier. In fact, the county clerk said nearly 50% of mail ballots already had been returned by Monday.

Late Monday afternoon, Nelson issued this statement:

DESCHUTES WOMEN SPEAK OUT PRESS CONFERENCE ON 10/26/2020

_____________________________________________________________________________________

"This morning, the Sheriff’s Office started receiving questions about a press conference held this morning by Deschutes Women Speak Out, concerning claims of harassment and gender discrimination brought by previous employees of this Office at that press conference.

"The Sheriff’s Office takes every complaint by current or former employees seriously. This is evidenced by the long-standing Sheriff’s Office practice to inform our partners in County Human Resources and County Legal of such complaints and conduct an investigation.

"In fact, the Sheriff’s Office has employed outside investigators to conduct these investigations.  We have always done that when there have been any complaints of harassment or discrimination. Crystal makes a good point to not say “always,” how about “this has been the historical practice of how this office has investigated these complaints?"

Sheriff Nelson said, “I am disappointed that Mayor Russell and Gena-Goodman Campbell did not reach out to me to discuss their concerns and learn Sheriff’s Office procedure on taking complaints before taking a stance on an issue.”

Since taking office, Sheriff Nelson has increased the numbers of female patrol deputies by approximately 20%.

Nelson added: “The timing is interesting, as this announcement appears to be election and debate related. I find this not to be coincidental.”

“People not in line with the Sheriff’s Office mission and values will not work here, that is not what our taxpayers deserve. In addition, I have been informed this press conference was organized by We Win Strategies, the same company currently being used by my opponent.”

A number of these claims involve two pending lawsuits. Claims by this group have been investigated by outside investigators and have been unsubstantiated.

This office has not received a report of hazing of a female employee.  The former employee cited by the group as a victim of hazing worked for the Sheriff’s Office over ten years ago for a previous administration.

Since taking office, Sheriff Nelson has followed a stance of holding employees, regardless of gender, accountable for their conduct. Not everyone likes to be held accountable for his or her actions.

Central Oregon / Deschutes County / Election / Government-politics
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Arielle Brumfield

Arielle Brumfield is a multimedia journalist for NewsChannel 21. Learn more about Arielle here.

Comments

43 Comments

    1. Exactly, it would have been more valuable a few weeks ago but any investigation of bias in DCSO clearly long overdue, they are the only local jurisdiction still using blue lives matter racial symbols on the cruisers, nelson needs to account for his in/actions (not to mention how to pay for all the current lawsuits along with the ones on their way)

    1. That website is laughable! Ms. Sloop must not have thought being a deputy was the job she thought it was. I like her complaint of actually having to do the job she was hired for. The reason you have a training officer is to help you learn and understand P&P, not do your job for you.

  1. This afternoon two major Media outlets informed Sheriff Nelson this “event” was organized by Scott Schair’s campaign front – “We Win Strategies”. OPB and the Central Oregon Daily shared “We Win Strategies” contacted them today about the “event”. And offered they were contacting OPB and other local Media “so they could get the scoop”.

    Not mentioned by the organizers of this “event”, “We Win Strategies”, is several of the former DCSO employees currently work for the City of Bend (hence Sally Russell’s comments), and the former county employees have disciplinary actions in their personnel files they are likely not too excited about self-disclosing.

    Clearly Scott Schaier is getting very, very desperate in the last days of the campaign season.

    1. At least nelson cant make him play dress up like he did with his own employees last time, nelson is easily the most underqualified and underperforming staffer on the county payroll and he proves it with every press release

  2. Not passing judgement on these women’s claims, but it does seem odd that it happens a week before a contested election. And I wouldn’t trust Sally Russell as far as I could throw a sheriff’s patrol car.

    1. Agreed… I’m not going to say that the claims aren’t true, but I am always very suspect of accusations made right before an election. The women aren’t alleging that the incidents took place a week or two ago, so why the extended delay in going public ?
      Usually the reason given for delayed reporting is fear of retaliation, but somehow they
      eventually manage to overlook this fear and proceed, and somehow they manage to overcome this fear during an election… I have yet to read a similar story that didn’t come across as being just a little suspect.

  3. This is clearly an attempt at an “October surprise”, Bend style. Leave it to the two most activist Bend City Councilors to cook up a devious ploy by to disrupt a county election. That clinches it for me. Sheriff Nelson – as of tonight you may consider my vote guaranteed.

  4. Since taking office, Sheriff Nelson has increased the numbers of female patrol deputies by approximately 20%.

    Its about quality, not quantity. You have some bad female officers.

  5. This tactic proves my theory to be truth. Schairs is a Democrat! That is the last thing Deschutes County needs. A Democrat Sherriff! I voted for Sherriff Nelson. I have had enough of the Democrats in this state. You can all bug off, each and every one of you. Turn Oregon Red!

    1. You can’t spell “Sheriff”? Even with spellcheck, the word in the article’s title, and in damn near every comment? Have they not been putting you in the sun and watering you properly?

      1. So I neglected to check my self after double tapping the r. What’s your point? Apparently my spell check didn’t pick it up either. Doesn’t change the fact that the last thing our county needs is anther regressive democrat to separate and segregate.

  6. It’s interesting that the website is using a counterfeit copyright designation for “©2020 Deschutes Women Speak Out”. There is no such copyright nor is there any record of an application. Of course, the next question is what exactly is it that is protected by or eligible to be protected by copyright?

    Does KTVZ have any investigative reporters? if so, here’s a softball for you!

  7. Why didn’t Mr. Schaier, so proud of the Las Vegas Metro Police Department, fail (again) to mention the $105,000.00 settlement his agency made after losing a civil rights case involving Schaier and two People of Color?

    $105,000.00 in Las Vegas…$800,000.00 in Bend…for a total of $905,000.00 cost to his employers and the tax payers in two different states. Mr. Schaier is an albatross around the necks of any department he happens to secure employment as a cop with.

    https://www.reviewjournal.com/crime/courts/las-vegas-police-settle-lawsuit-with-street-performer/

  8. Vote for Shane Nelson.
    Every trouble maker, misfit, Anarchist, anti American and other Left wing moron out there wants the police weakened so that the newcomer with ZERO supervisor experience would give them what they want.. POWER.
    A vote for this other Clown from Las Vegas is a vote for riots, anarchy and someone who doesn’t follow the Constitution of the United States. This is a political Hit Job by a Paid out of state Leftist Organization.

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