BEND, OR -- A current Deschutes County deputy has announced a run for Sheriff. Eric Kozowski has worked for the department for six years and feels changes need to be made. He tells KBND News, "I’ve tried working within the agency to effect change, to little success. I’d hoped that Shane Nelson was going to make some changes that so many of us employees were asking to have made. When six months, seven months roll around and there’s been no change, I decided that if I’m going to raise some issues, maybe I need to be the one willing to take the action and step up to the plate."
Kozowski's announcement follows several high-profile departures from the department. In the past month, one captain was fired for alleged criminal misdeeds and a second resigned amid an investigation into policy violations. Kozowski says, "One of the big issues is the supervisor to subordinate ratio. Agency-wide, we roughly have one supervisor for every three employees. Not only is that not the best use of taxpayer money, it’s not an efficient way to operate."
He adds, "The employees at the Sheriff’s Office are by and large hard working, but they’re begging for leadership; and new leadership, and open-minded leadership. They’re looking for new and more efficient ways of doing business." Kozowski has worked in law enforcement for 14 years, in Deschutes and Wallowa counties. Before that, he worked in I.T. and served in the Marine Corps.
Kozowski is one of two candidates challenging Sheriff Shane Nelson in May. Will Gibbons, a retired police officer living in La Pine, has also filed. Nelson was appointed Sheriff in July, following the retirement of Larry Blanton.