Interview with Veteran Sheriff Frank Rogers: Insights and Advice on a Law Enforcement Career

by Rob on September 29, 2010

On September 28th, 2010, Criminal Justice Degree Schools interviewed Okanogan County’s Sheriff Frank Rogers on his successful law enforcement career that spans over 25 years as a Sheriff, Sergeant, Investigator and Patrol Officer.  The goal in this interview series is to get expert input for CJDS readers who are considering a Sheriff’s Deputy or Police Officer career to help answer if and how to become a law enforcement officer.

Sheriff Frank RogersCriminal Justice Degree Schools:

How long have you been a Sheriff in Okanogan County and how did you get to your current role?

Sheriff Rogers:

I have been in law enforcement for almost 27 years and I have been Sheriff of Okanogan County for almost 8 years.

Criminal Justice Degree Schools:

How did you get into law enforcement and how did your career evolve?  

Sheriff Rogers:
When I was growing up I always wanted to be a cop and in 1984 I got my start. I started my career with the City of Okanogan as a patrol officer and in 1986 I transferred over to the City of Omak where I worked for 17 years, 15 of those years I was a Sergeant for the Police Department.  In 2002, I was asked by several law enforcement personnel throughout the County to run for Sheriff which I did and won. In 2003 I became Sheriff and at the end of this year will be completing my 8th year as Sheriff.  In becoming a Sheriff, I was not on the street as much, but I do still go out on bigger calls and for search and rescue.  It did take about two years to get out of the Patrol and Sergeant mentality and into the Sheriff role fully.

Criminal Justice Degree Schools:

Why do you like your job?

Sheriff Rogers:

In my opinion it’s the greatest job in the world.  We all get into law enforcement because we truly do want to help people, and that in itself is probably the greatest reward. But at the same time we do deal with the danger, chases and the fights. And the adrenaline associated with those moments is one of the perks of the job. Of course, it’s not always exciting, but when it is there is nothing better, especially the camaraderie that is built between your fellow officers and deputies.  

The duty can be hard on your system due to the rotations usually served.  When I worked in Omak for 17 years, I was fortunate to work the night shift for that entire span.  It was the best shift since I wasn’t rotating and was easier on my system (for set time to sleep).  Also, most of the action happens at night and this made things more exciting. If you get into this career, you can usually expect an irregular schedule.

Criminal Justice Degree Schools:

What are the common challenges you face in your department?

Sheriff Rogers:

We have had budgetary challenges for a long time.  For the last eight years, we have not expanded patrol.  In 2002, we had 32 deputies including the Sheriff, and then immediately it was dropped to 29.  Dispatch was steady until we picked up two positions in the last year.  Our Corrections unit has grown, but for reasons of outsourcing beds to other agencies.  

But, we are pretty much the same as everyone else in law enforcement…budgets and the lack of money is always a challenge. So you have to be wise with your money and have to always be looking for grants and or other partnerships to make things work and to get needed equipment and personnel.

Also when you work in a smaller agency you always have to wear more than one hat, which sometimes can be tough and hard on family life. Like here, I am the Sheriff but I am also the Emergency Management Director.

Criminal Justice Degree Schools:

Has the downturn played a major part in the challenges?

Sheriff Rogers:

It has hurt us but has not crippled us. We have never had a lot of money so we have always been kind of used to doing without. It has affected all agencies in the county to some degree but we just continue on.  At least we have avoided cuts, which were contemplated.

Criminal Justice Degree Schools:

Is there any advice you would give to someone who wants to be in this field?

Sheriff Rogers:

If you want to get into law enforcement do it because of the right reasons. Don’t look at law enforcement as a job…it’s a career, a way of life and especially in smaller agencies you are always on the job. You also have to remember that law enforcement is a civil service job.  We are here to serve the public because that is whom we work for. You will never get rich in this job but it is a great way to make a living.

Criminal Justice Degree Schools:

What are some hiring and staffing challenges you face?

Sheriff Rogers:

Our biggest problem, we never have any openings. We have tried for years to get more Deputies on the street but have never had any additional slots allocated to us. If we could get the openings we could fill the positions. Since we don’t hire that often and are not trying to fill large numbers we usually get pretty good candidates for positions.

Criminal Justice Degree Schools:

What are the current Deputy Sheriff requirements for education and otherwise?

Sheriff Rogers:

Right now for the Okanogan County Sheriff’s Office you have to be 21 years of age, either have or obtain a Washington State Driver’s License and have high school diploma. College is not required by our agency but in this day in age a college degree even a two year Associate’s Degree would be a good idea.  I tell potential applicants this at job fairs.  And military experience is always a plus.  

We do thorough background check and polygraph.  Any felony conviction is non-starter.  

Criminal Justice Degree Schools:

Can you tell me what the top things required to become a successful Deputy Sheriff?

Sheriff Rogers:

1.You have to be dedicated to this career.
2.You have to remember that as a law enforcement officer we are looked at differently and are held to a higher standard, which I agree with. You have to live your life both on the job and off the job in the same manner.
3.To me this is the number one rule in law enforcement and I use it every time I talk to anyone. You always have to have fun.  If you let it, this job will eat you alive.  It hardens you due to some of the difficult things you will see and experience.  Fun is the factor that helps you live a normal and balanced life.  

Criminal Justice Degree Schools:

Have you seen technology and the Internet change your approach to law enforcement in the last decade?

Sheriff Rogers:

When I started we did things on typewriters.  Twenty-seven years later, I am amazed by the progress.  We finally have nearly full radio coverage in the county (Okanogan County is the largest in Washington at ~5,300 square miles.  Rhode Island is ~1,500 square miles as a point of comparison).  Being a very large and remote county we don’t always have the infrastructure to do things, but that is changing slowly. We now have computers in the patrol vehicles, all the police agencies within the county use the same type report and records system so we can share information easier.  For example, we just solved some burglaries about 50 miles apart, as there was the same MO when a Sheriff’s Deputy and a Twisp Police Officer compared notes.  That wouldn’t have easily happened before the common system was deployed.  We can even look up photos online in cases where someone lacks ID and it is a suspicious situation.  

For Search and Rescue, we have had a lot of searches this year.  They used to be longer but GPS / tracking devices (the author carries one while hiking) and cell phones have made a huge difference.  Searches that used to take days have been reduced down to 1 day or less as a result of the person in trouble being able to signal for help versus waiting for a relative to report them as missing.  If you visit our county for the outdoor activities we have, I would suggest a cell phone or one of these devices (the author uses the SPOT Messenger system).

Criminal Justice Degree Schools:

What are some things citizens can do to help law enforcement officers perform their duties in an area like yours?

Sheriff Rogers:

In our area we depend on citizens for a lot of things.  Since there are very few of us, the citizens depend on each other, and help us out anytime it is needed.  We also have citizens that assist us in Search and Rescue, in our Deputy Reserve Program and in our Posse Program. Without the help of citizens we would not be able to have these programs and the drain on the agency would be too much for us to do them.

We also are actively involved in community events throughout the county and this builds a closer bond with law enforcement and the citizens we serve. We have a very resourceful group of people that live here and most of the time they are more than willing to assist us anyway they can. We are actually pretty lucky living here.

Criminal Justice Degree Schools:

Are there any great things about your area you would like to share with our readers?

Sheriff Rogers:

Okanogan County is the largest county in Washington State. It covers approximately 5,300 square miles of country, ending at the Canadian border. There are only approximately 40,000 people living in the county. That leaves a lot of open country.

If you like the outdoors, this is the county to live in. We have hundreds of lakes and multiple rivers that run through it and a lot of sunny days. In Okanogan County we have hunting, fishing, boating, hiking, whitewater rafting, mountain climbing, mountain biking, skiing, snowmobiling and horseback riding to name just a few.

Plus there is a lot of neat history within the county and you could spend several weeks just traveling around to the different areas.

Plus we have the Pasayten Wilderness, Grand Coulee Dam and the Columbia River. And the Pacific Crest enters its last leg here before reaching Canada.

As an aside, the interviewer is also from Washington State and coincidentally makes an annual trip to Okanagon County to see the Perseid Meteor Showers in mid August near Mazama (little light pollution where we camp makes for a great show) and to do some fantastic hiking like the one to Cut Throat Lake / Pass.  It is a beautiful county and one should find a way to visit it.

Request Information free information from schools

Page updated on September 29, 2010.

Previous post:

Next post: