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prussik1

Letter from PMR President about CCSO

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 CLACKAMAS COUNTY SHERIFF OFFICE PLAN TO FORM CAPTIVE SAR UNIT AND STOP USING PMR

For over 50 years, Clackamas County has called upon Portland Mountain Rescue (PMR) to perform the county’s most difficult, dangerous and most urgent search and rescue (SAR) missions, most notably on Mt. Hood. PMR has performed that service with distinction. Recently, Sheriff Craig Roberts announced that he is dismantling all current SAR teams with the intent to create a new Clackamas County Search and Rescue team within the sheriff’s office. He says he intends to stop calling on PMR for Mt. Hood rescues as soon as six months from now. The Sheriff has told us that PMR has served with distinction and has not done anything wrong to precipitate this change.

PMR supports the Sheriff’s efforts to improve search and rescue in Clackamas County. We welcome many of the changes he wants to make. PMR has been cooperative and supports changes Sheriff Robert has already made. However, we believe public safety will be best protected by preserving PMR. Safely and effectively performing rescues in the extreme environment of Mt. Hood requires extensive training, mutual trust among rescuers and esprit de corps that has taken us decades to build. PMR believes the Sheriff’s objectives can be achieved while at the same time maintaining these critical attributes of PMR.

• PMR is a fully self-funded team with no financial cost to the county or taxpayers. The Sheriff’s plan has no financial backing and will add burden to the county’s current financial deficit. We conservatively estimate that equipping and training a new mountain rescue unit would cost at least $500,000, even assuming all the work is done by volunteers.

• PMR is accredited and peer reviewed by the Mountain Rescue Association (MRA) which ensures a high standard of proficiency. It would take many years for a new unit to attain this accreditation.

• The current 1,200 years of accumulated PMR experience, in addition to the years devoted by previous members, has cultivated something extremely special and irreplaceable. Through decades of experience, PMR has developed a culture of trust and skill that cannot readily be transferred to a new team.

• PMR’s volunteer rescuers are highly trained, very experienced, and disciplined experts in high angle and alpine rescues. The Sheriff’s plan leaves a deficiency in technical rescue resources and increases the county’s liability risk because they do not have the same experience in educating, developing standards for, or managing an alpine rescue team.

• PMR is nationally recognized for this expertise, including developing state of the art rescue systems. PMR’s national reputation is an asset to the county that cannot be replaced. PMR

• PMR’s reputation as an elite mountain rescue unit allows it to recruit outstanding individuals from the mountaineering community and it attracts funding from private donors.

• Half of PMR’s Mission is public education to prevent potential rescues. Our reputation and credibility in the community facilitates the opportunities for public outreach. The Sherriff’s plan does not indicate any public education.

We are asking the Sheriff to engage in a collaborate dialogue with us to identify his important objectives and to explore how those objectives can be met while preserving the critical attributes of PMR and avoiding a new financial burden for the county. We believe such a collaborative effort would produce a hybrid result that could be the model for excellence in mountain rescue.

Notwithstanding the uncertainty with CCSO, be assured that PMR will continue to train, provide public education, and respond to all requests by the Sheriff to perform rescues. And we will do so at the highest level of service in mountain rescue.

We highly value and appreciate your years of support of PMR,

Chris Baker, President

Portland Mountain Rescue

email: President@pmru.org

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It does not matter what the cost is to the county (or the other points which are indisputable), it is what is being required for liability to the county.  Clackamas County is one of the few remaining counties in the state that didn’t require all SAR volunteers to go through the sheriff’s office. Like it or not, this change is/will be the norm.

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Yeah, a similar sort of stupidity is going on in Skagit County right now.   Again related to liability, kicked off by a death in the local SAR community several years ago.  It may well result in the death of the local MRA unit which has been serving Skagit County since 1962.  Time will tell. 

Whatcom county Sheriff's office has a much better relationship with BMRU, but they also haven't had a SAR death recently.

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Who would you rather be rescued by?  A cop or one of our own?

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8 minutes ago, DPS said:

A cop or one of our own?

Cops will never be the one rescuing anyone in the hills.  They don't get too far from the rig.  They will call for out of county resources that are on someone else's insurance plan.   Until there is nobody to call because all the Sheriff's are using similar tactics.....  Then it will be the Navy alone available to respond? 

I can see that we are heading for a day when someone needs help and there is nobody local to call (except your climbing partners, just like when Ome started MRA).  Then maybe we'll have professional rescuers and rescue insurance like Europe?  Or start the MRA process all over again?

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When I was more active in SAR and Mountain Rescue I generally had to register with the relevant county sherrifs office as an emergency worker and when we responded to a county initiated call we would have a mission number and liability coverage.  Registration didn't involve much other than a trip to the office and finger prints/pic.  Is PMR not under this sort of umbrella?  Has this sort of process changed?  Totally ignorant of the specific situation, hope it gets worked out in case I need a rescue down there some day!

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It sounds like PMR wasn't under the sheriff on incidents?  In WA, agreed that it is normal to be under the SO on a mission using your state DEM #. 

What has changed, at least in Skagit, is that the SO is reaching down in the WMRA unit structure to tell us what we need to do to be "competently trained" in their eyes.  Don't jump thru their hoops and you won't be allowed out in the field on missions.  The lack of trust now is quite palpable.  Very different from how it was just a few years ago when they let WMRA to certify units as field ready and capable in search, rock, and snow/ice.  While this is within the SO's rights under WA state law, it is admittedly driven by their staff attorney(s), and is creating ill will amongst the volunteers.   For most of us, these sorts of games are not why we got into mountain rescue. 

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This is very interesting to learn but not surprising given  government bureaucracy/ lawyers and liability issues/ law enforcement hierarchy/ etc. and the very high costs involved when a major rescue is needed. Local SAR can never be replaced.

 

 

Edited by Whatcomboy
spelling

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On 2/19/2020 at 8:42 AM, JasonG said:

...a death in the local SAR community several years ago.

Can you provide some searchable details? Interested.

 

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17 hours ago, JasonG said:

It sounds like PMR wasn't under the sheriff on incidents?  In WA, agreed that it is normal to be under the SO on a mission using your state DEM #. 

What has changed, at least in Skagit, is that the SO is reaching down in the WMRA unit structure to tell us what we need to do to be "competently trained" in their eyes.  Don't jump thru their hoops and you won't be allowed out in the field on missions.  The lack of trust now is quite palpable.  Very different from how it was just a few years ago when they let WMRA to certify units as field ready and capable in search, rock, and snow/ice.  While this is within the SO's rights under WA state law, it is admittedly driven by their staff attorney(s), and is creating ill will amongst the volunteers.   For most of us, these sorts of games are not why we got into mountain rescue. 

That's exactly why I ended up getting out of mountain rescue.

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6 hours ago, tanstaafl said:

That's exactly why I ended up getting out of mountain rescue.

It may be the death knell for me as well.  :skull:

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Here's another interesting case involving an injured Sheriff's deputy suing SAR, another Deputy and contributing to Chouinard's bankruptcy and eventual sale to the employees.  Also prompted the label showing how to put on your harness that's now sewn into the harness.

https://casetext.com/case/swank-v-duffy-2/?resultsNav=false&PHONE_NUMBER_GROUP=C&NEW_CASE_PAGE=N

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Makes me wonder if this is something that could be addressed with legislation at the State level. I can't imagine anyone believing that your average Sheriff's deputy has any business doing front-line wilderness rescue work.

I also can't imagine that the response from the public will be favorable when and if there's a need for a rescue in the mountains and someone has to explain to the family and the public why the search and rescue resources that used to be available no longer are. 

 

 

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I am not very familiar with the situation but I thought that it was more of a command and control thing.  The sheriff would not be doing the rescues but command the situation and ensure proper education or something like that.

 

 

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Yeah, I was surprised that they weren't under the SO on missions.  This is standard up in WA.  What varies by county is how much the SO meddles in the day to day training of the MRA unit.

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PMR was always under CCSO in some ways.  OSSA cards issued by CCSO, dispatched by CCSO for missions in clackamas county.

This agreement changes what that relationship looks like and the level of involvement of the SO, but retains PMR's identity and experience.

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Thanks for the info @Hoo....So, was a deputy from the CCSO always IC on PMR missions in the past?  

That is the standard model up in WA.  The MRA units are always resources under the IC from the SO (typically a SAR deputy) on missions.  Since the deputies don't know the operations side of things they usually leave us alone in the field, but it is sometimes an odd arrangement depending on who the deputy is and what sort of power trip they or their SO is on.

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