Local OSP troopers back at work

OSP Sgt. Randy Palmer reinstates (l-r) Fish and Wildlife agent Brad Duncan, Patrolman Greg Rutherford and Patrolman Berry Taft Thursday afternoon in Enterprise. Patrolman Mark Knapp was also reinstated. Photo by Kim Lamb

Of the 40 Oregon State Police troopers, five tobacco detectives and 40 crime lab personnel hired back in the state last week because of a senate bill signed into law by Gov. Ted Kulongoski, nine were hired back in the northeast Oregon region. All four laid-off Wallowa County officers got their jobs back.

All had been released Feb. 1 following the defeat of Measure 28 late in January. At that time 129 Oregon state troopers were let go.

The rehires are based on seniority and have nothing to do with where in the state the troopers were stationed. Because police academy graduates were often hired on the same day, a random computer lottery was held to establish seniority within specific hire dates.

Three Wallowa County troopers and one Union County trooper who graduated from the academy Dec. 18, 1999, were fortunate enough to be rehired, while others from their class were not. The Union County rehire, Kyle Hove, who used to work in Wallowa County, made the cut onlybecause two troopers ahead of him in the lottery selection elected not to return to duty.

The reinstated troopers were given the option to return to their old post, and four officers did so in Wallowa County and Hove did so in Union County. They were the only five troopers in that two county area who were laid off Feb. 1.

Rehired to their same positions in Wallowa County as of Wednesday, March 5, were Troopers Barry Taft, Brad Duncan and Greg Retherford. Mark Knapp, with additional seniority, had been hired back days earlier to work with the Oregon Department of Fish & Wildlife.

The rehire was especially rewarding for Retherford whose young daughter was diagnosed with leukemia the week before the layoff. According to his Enterprise based boss, Sgt. Randy Palmer who along with Trooper Seth Cooney was not laid off, Retherford took the option to continue his insurance and will now be reabsorbed under the same health policy.

Palmer thought the rehires were relatively secure in their positions through the 2003-2005 biennium, but Lt. Reg Madsen, who is the OSP Area Commanding Supervisor for Union, Baker and Wallowa counties was not so sure. "This is a really good sign," said Madsen, "But layoffs could still occur. It is my understanding that there are no guarantees about anything."

Madsen said that the affected troopers only lost one month of tenure, PERS and insurance, but will regain the benefits April 1.

Taft said that he has spent the past month looking for work outside of Oregon. He was focusing on an opening within the Idaho State Police when he was called back. He had only moved to Wallowa County in July to replace Hove and was not relishing the thought of another move for himself, his wife and his two daughters who still live at home.

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