Local Oregon news sources reported on Thursday that nearly 20% of Klamath County deputies have asked to be sent on leave after Sheriff Frank Skrah was accused of punching a handcuffed suspect. The Oregonian reported that the Oregon Department of Justice is investigating Skrah for use of excessive force. At the same time 30 deputies had been granted requests for paid leave.
Citing an attorney who represents the Klamath County Peace Officers Association, Oregon Public Broadcasting says the deputies feared retaliation from the sheriff, after they were interviewed by the Oregon Department of Justice. On Wednesday, Skrah issued a statement saying he hadn’t been consulted about the decision to place the deputies on leave, and that he doesn’t know the specifics of the state investigation. Klamath County Commissioner Kelly Minty Morris suggested that the county could be at risk because because so many deputies were off the job. Despite the walk off, Oregon State Police spokesman Kyle Bove said his troopers were providing police patrol coverage where needed. One of the deputies has filed a complaint with the Oregon Employment Relations Board against Sheriff Skrah. Skrah released a statement disapproving of the approval of leave for the officers.
Placing these individuals on leave was done without consulting me or my command staff,” “I will do everything possible together with my command staff to keep patrols operating for the benefit of the citizens of Klamath County.”
Skrah, a former Los Angeles police officer and investigator for the California judicial department, was elected Sheriff of Klamath County Nov. 6, 2012. Most of the deputies came to the commissioners Friday seeking to be put on leave and another did over the weekend, said Klamath County Commissioner Kelly Minty Morris. She declined to say why the deputies asked to be put on leave. Sheriff Frank Skrah was asked by the Klamath County Board of Commissioners to voluntarily take administrative leave until the Oregon Department of Justice completes the investigation, HNGN reports. Sheriff Skrah continues to claim he has not been informed about the particulars of the misconduct charges against him.
One month later I still have not been advised as to the specific nature of that investigation nor have I been interviewed by representatives of the Oregon Department of Justice. I am learning more about the Oregon Department of Justice investigation and learning about an internal county investigation just like the rest of the public, from media reports.”
The county commissioners reportedly feel that if Skrah takes the administrative leave, the deputies will feel comfortable returning to their posts. The Oregon DOJ interviewed the seven deputies during their investigation of Sheriff Skrah.