After 17 years with the John Day Police Department, Damon Rand has given his notice and moved on. His last day with the department was March 5.
“I saw the handwriting on the wall,” he said. “I wanted to be ahead of all that.”
Rand said he was concerned with the direction City Manager Nick Green was taking the department. His departure left the city with two full-time certified officers, down from four in 2017.
Rand moved to Grant County in 1992 and graduated from Long Creek School three years later. His stepfather, John Pebley, was a Grant County sheriff’s deputy, and his aunt is Valerie Maynard, the John Day 911 dispatch manager, but Rand said his interest in a law enforcement career started when he was young.
After high school, he worked at the Prairie Wood Products mill and then with Dakom Logging before landing a job as a corrections deputy at the Grant County Jail. He signed on as a reserve officer with the John Day Police Department in 2001 and five years later became a certified police officer.
Rand took on acting chief duties in October 2013 after Chief Richard Tirico suddenly resigned and Sgt. Richard Gray was away elk hunting. On Sept. 1, 2014, after four weeks at the police academy in Salem, Rand was promoted to sergeant.
“As officers, we’re always studying, keeping up on case law and training,” he said.
During his time at John Day, Rand served as the department’s evidence tech, logging in evidence and tracking items sent to the state crime lab — and making sure property was returned to its owners after a case closed.
Rand also managed the department’s shooting range. He knows guns — in 2013, he came in second fastest among local competitors at the Oregon State Fast Draw Championships in Canyon City.
Police work is inherently dangerous. Any call could pose a threat, Rand said. Domestic disputes are considered the most dangerous, but calls to bar fights typically require assistance.
“There could be two guys or 15,” Rand said. “And if you had six people to interview, you would get eight different stories.”
As a reserve officer in September 2002, Rand and Reserve Officer Kevin Miller arrested a man at gunpoint after he reportedly approached the officers in an aggressive manner with his vehicle. The man had left a bar fight at the Grubsteak lounge two blocks away and was later sentenced to 70 months in prison.
Alcohol fuels bar fights, but many crimes are substance-abuse related, Rand said. Some drug users steal to pay for their illegal drugs, creating a “big chain effect,” he said. But John Day is fortunate not to see a lot of violent crime.
“The guys who rotate in and out of jail still have some form of respect for law enforcement and their community,” Rand said. “They’re not likely to come to your house and kick your front door in.”
Nature of crime
Rand has responded to a number of shooting incidents in his 17 years with the John Day police, but he could recall only one homicide. In August 2008, Rand and Tirico tracked down a man shortly after he shot and killed a man on Northeast Elm Street. In July 2016, Rand arrested a man in Prairie City who had shot and injured a man behind Chester’s Thiftway.
“I haven’t personally seen a person-on-person crime where they didn’t know each other,” Rand said. “There was some kind of link. We don’t have drive-by shootings here.”
But the worst incident for him was the Strawberry Village Apartments fire in Prairie City last November, Rand said.
“Two young children died,” he pointed out.
Rand noted that the John Day Police Department enjoys a “high success” in solving crimes.
“It’s a small town — everyone knows everyone,” he said.
In April 2007, Rand and Miller were credited with a six-month investigation that led to a substantial marijuana bust at a trailer park in John Day. In September 2010, Rand and Tirico traveled to Prineville where they arrested two men for arson and burglary at three locations in John Day. And in June 2011, Rand and Gray arrested two men and a boy for burglary, criminal mischief and theft at a downtown restaurant.
Rand also credited the number of officers in the department and their experience.
“We weren’t so busy we couldn’t find the time to investigate crimes,” he said.
Rand said he plans to apply for work as a deputy with the Grant County Sheriff’s Office. In the meantime, he’s remodeling his home and looking forward to more time for activities such as snowmobiling.