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DEVELOPING A CAREER IN LAW ENFORCEMENT

Tarah Dougherty tries on an armored vest. ().
Tarah Dougherty tries on an armored vest. ().

Brookings Police Lt. John Bishop never thought about a career in law enforcement when he was growing up in Coquille.

Bishop spoke to students Thursday at the Chetco Community Public Librarys Different Paths program.

He grew up on a farm in Coquille and said he was extremely lucky as a kid because his parents werent divorced.

In high school, he participated in football, basketball, baseball and golf as well as Key Club and Future Farmers of America.

I was busy from daylight to late at night. I had an easy home life and I never got in trouble, he said.

Throughout high school, he dated the chief of polices daughter, but even that didnt spark a thought of police work as a possible career.

After high school, he attended Arizona State University in Phoenix where he majored in business administration.

I wanted to get out of a small town and go to a big city, he said.

In addition to attending college, Bishop also played for Phoenixs city football team. But college didnt keep his interest, so he dropped out and began working for Yokohama Tires.

He moved with his wife to Los Angeles where he became an executive with Yokohama.

I was in charge of 113 people and a $15 million to $17 million budget, he said.

He traveled extensively with the company and became interested in its different aspects including marketing and off-road racing.

One of the marketing gimmicks for the company was having two Oakland Raiders cheerleaders at company booths and shows. Bishop said he is still friends with the two cheerleaders he traveled with.

Bishop soon tired of the constant traveling and decided to take a five-week vacation. He came to Brookings to visit his father who had moved here after his divorce.

On a whim, I applied for a job as a sheriffs deputy, Bishop said.

Although he had no formal training in law enforcement, he got the job and started as a patrol deputy for the Curry County Sheriffs Department.

He worked for the sheriffs office for six years and in 1994, he was offered a position as a detective at the Brookings Police Department by then-Chief of Police Kent Owens.

Last June, he was promoted to his current position as lieutenant.

During his years with the sheriffs office and the police department, he had the opportunity to go to larger cities such as Portland and Salem, but he turned down the offers. He said he enjoys his job in Brookings.

As a detective, I was on Americas Most Wanted three times, he said.

But working as a detective was difficult.

Its been interesting. When I was promoted to lieutenant, I was ready. Being a detective takes a toll on you. You cover a lot of bad things, he said.

Bishop was asked how he handles the emotional issues that come with being a detective.

You learn to turn it off or you try to. When I go home, my focus is on my kids, he said.

I like to golf and working in the yard is stress relief, he added. Ive always been able to handle stress well.

Bishop had a particularly stressful time in 1999 when his wife left him after 18 years of marriage, his mother died two weeks later and two difficult court cases were taking place.

You learn how to handle your stress. You have to just work it through. Life goes on, he said.

Bishop has seen a lot of difficult cases in his career including a car accident a few years ago where he was able to see the brain matter of one of the victims at the accident scene.

In situations like that, you rely on your training, he said.

Bishop has attended several trainings with high-profile groups such as SWAT teams and the Secret Service. He is also a trained hostage negotiator.

Ive been blessed to go to some great trainings, he said.

In addition to attending trainings, he also conducts them. He has trained the staffs of schools in Brookings and Port Orford on school shooting protocol.

Weve come extremely close to having a school shooter here, he said.

Columbine has taught us some things. Now, the first officer on the scene will engage the shooter. It used to be the SWAT team would do that, he said.

In more than a decade in law enforcement, Bishop has seen a lot of issues crop up, such as school shootings, that werent there before.

When I first started, loggers fighting with each other in the bars on Friday and Saturday nights was a big problem. Now dope and narcotics are a huge issue, he said.

Bishop said narcotics affect everything including health, the economy and peoples lives in general.

It has a far reaching effect that is huge, he said.

In particular, methamphetamine has become a big problem, he said.

If people knew what was in meth, they wouldnt put it in their bodies, he said.

He said his experience in law enforcement has taught him that marijuana use will lead to the use of methamphetamine.

The issues he deals with are not the only things that have changed since he first started.

The town has changed dramatically. Were busier now than weve ever been. I enjoy the politics of it. The inner workings are interesting, he said.

Although Bishop never graduated from college, he said a college degree helps and he would like to work toward at least an associates degree in criminal justice. The only problem with that goal is that he teaches most of the classes he would need to take, he said.

Bishop also has a second goal of working with Police Chief Chris Wallace to make the Brookings Police Department the best it can be.

I want to help develop young officers careers and someday be sheriff or chief, he said.

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