If you’ve ever wondered how sheriff’s deputies are hired or promoted, ask Kris Burns, a civilian member of Jefferson County Sheriff’s Citizen Advisory Committee who happened to sit in on one part of the process.
Kris Burns is a member of Jefferson County Sheriff Dave Stanko’s Citizen Advisory Committee, and it is in that role that she was allowed to be part of the oral boards for a sergeant position in June, and for an entry-level Department of Corrections (DOC) position at the Jefferson County Jail in August.
The sergeant’s position had five candidates, all from within the Jefferson County Sheriff’s Office (JCSO), but aside from Burns, all the board members conducting the review for that position came from outside the county. Among those board members were Bremerton’s chief of police, a lieutenant with Mason County Sheriff’s Office and a captain with the Washington State Patrol.
Since none of the board members interviewing the sergeant candidates was from JCSO, Burns saw it as offering “a level playing field,” where each candidate was able to be judged by their responses rather than their résumés or whether the interviewers had already worked with them.
For the entry-level corrections officer position, the oral board consisted of Burns plus two Jefferson County Jail officers, who interviewed four candidates, all of them from outside the county.
In the oral board sessions, each candidate was subjected to about 45 minutes of questioning, with all of the sergeant candidates answering the same questions, just as the DOC candidates were asked their own set of questions.
“We asked them situational questions that called upon them to look inside themselves,” Burns said. “Things like ‘What does integrity mean to you?’ Or ‘How would you react under these circumstances?’ We left the questions open-ended enough that they could give us more details, let us know which procedure they’d follow in a given example.”
Burns deemed all of the candidates “amazing,” both in terms of the skill sets they would bring to the positions and the level of commitment to public safety that she saw in them.
“These were all good guys that you’d want to have on your team,” Burns said. “With sergeants, their role tends to be more supervisory and on the road. With corrections officers, they’re obviously in a more enclosed setting in the jail, and while they need to be able to multitask, they still need to come to other correction officers’’ aid at a moment’s notice. You need someone you can trust, has got your back.”
The oral boards are part of a process that includes written and polygraph tests, physical and psychological examinations, and background security checks.
There was only one opening for sergeant, so the offer was made to a current Jefferson County Sheriff’s deputy.
“If additional sergeant openings come up within two years, those who have already applied would not need to go through the process again, if they were still interested in the promotion,” Burns said.
Multiple DOC openings are available, and background checks are the next step, followed by polygraph and psychiatric evaluations, according to Burns.
“This process may take a few months to complete,” Burns said.
The oral boards were but one of the ways that Burns and her fellow Citizen Advisory Committee members have sought to serve the community by representing their neighbors in matters related to law enforcement.
“We’re able to speak for the communities where we live and bring their issues to the attention of the sheriff,” Burns said. “We seem to have all the local areas covered for right now, but if and when anyone leaves the committee, we’ll need someone new to represent their neighborhood.”