Interview With Sheriff Candidate Scot Schaier (6/30/2020)
The Peacekeepers sat down for a long conversation with candidate for Deschutes County Sheriff Scott Schaier this afternoon. We covered an enormous amount of ground (far too much for one Facebook post) but overall our team found Mr. Schaier to be open and willing to engage in serious dialog. We told Mr. Schaier we're not in the business of endorsing political candidates, but we did promise to give a fair and accurate account of the conversation. We invited Mr. Schaier to talk about changes he'd like to see in the DCSO, and our team was cautiously optimistic about several of his ideas.
*Before continuing, we'd like to offer our readers a content warning. We will be discussing police reform, and that means discussing police violence. Particularly at the end of this post, there will be a brief discussion of an officer involved shooting. Please be kind to yourself and read no further if this content will cause you pain or to revisit trauma.*
One of the first topics that came up was the idea of defunding the police (which the Peacekeepers believe in strongly). Mr Schaier made it clear that he understands the term to mean reallocating resources currently spent on law enforcement into other areas such as hiring mental health professionals trained in crisis response. He added that as Sheriff he would like to create a plainclothes officer team to respond in cases of mental health or drug crisis, specifically to avoid the sort of escalation that can happen when a uniformed officer arrives on scene.
Another interesting idea Mr. Schaier proposed was what he would call a Community Outreach Program (and the Central Oregon Peacekeepers can't not laugh along at a clever use of the acronym "C.O.P"). His outreach program would engage with local organizations that serve the community, and put them in direct contact with officers. An example he used was having officers in the field put at risk youth in touch with the Father's Group for mentoring.
Another topic Mr. Schaier touched on was changing police culture from a "Warrior mentality" in which police view the public as potential threats to a "Guardian mentality" in which the emphasis is on protecting. He spoke at length about the need for law enforcement agencies to focus on mental health, both of officers and of citizens. He said that officers need better training in processing trauma.
A few more positive topics we covered were: Mr. Schaier agrees that there's no good reason for an officer to turn off a body camera when interacting with the public and intentionally doing so should be treated as tampering with evidence, the "thin blue line" imagery has become divisive and should be removed from vehicles, and that DCSO should immediately stop reporting daily inmate information to ICE.
Obviously, there were plenty of areas where Mr. Schaier didn't go as far as the Peacekeepers would like to go in law enforcement reform, and others where we just disagree entirely. For example, Schaier defends the purchasing of military weapons, vehicles and other gear for law enforcement (although he does oppose the use of tear gas). On this topic, our team made it clear we strongly disagree. Another example is the choke hold. Schaier would ban choke holds and knee restraints involving the neck, but allow an exception when lethal force is allowed. The Peacekeepers stand by our position that there's always another option.
The final item of disagreement is an extremely delicate one, and we would like to once again offer a content warning.
In 2016, while on duty Officer Scott Schaier shot and killed an unarmed man. This is a fact, and one that Mr. Schaier was open and willing to talk about. In fact he raised the subject first, saying that he knew it was important to address it. We won't go into the details of the incident. They are all publicly available. It is Schaier's position that it was the right thing to do. The Central Oregon Peacekeepers will always question the necessity for lethal force against an unarmed civilian. We asked Schaier what he learned from the experience of the shooting, and he said that it's the reason he thinks it's so important that society "gets ahead of these situations to prevent them from happening in the first place", and again talked about the importance of services such as mental health care and drug treatment long before it gets to the point of a police officer being involved.
The Central Oregon Peacekeepers aren't in the business of endorsing or condemning political candidates. We believe in the safety of our community, and we believe that more information means more safety. We hope that this conversation with Scott Schaier, candidate for Deschutes County Sheriff, made you more informed.
Who knows...maybe we'll get incumbent Sheriff Nelson to talk to us!