Derrick Peterson
Derrick Peterson Derrick for Sheriff

Multnomah County Sheriff candidate Derrick Peterson, who currently serves as a captain within the Multnomah County Sheriff’s Office, has been granted permission to earn his law enforcement certification. It's a significant step for Peterson, whose candidacy has been repeatedly criticized for lacking this qualification.

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While Peterson obtained his corrections certification in 1988, he lacks the police academy basic training required to be certified in law enforcement. This doesn't make him ineligible to run: Per state law, a sheriff must earn law enforcement certification through the Department of Public Safety Standards & Training (DPSST) within one year of taking office—something that Peterson has pledged to do. Peterson's opponent in the sheriff's race, Undersheriff Nicole Morrisey O’Donnell, already has both of these certifications, and has underscored this advantage in campaign materials.

On Wednesday, current Multnomah County Sheriff Mike Reese approved Peterson's request to attend the four-month academy to obtain this certification, meaning that if elected, Peterson would be able to acquire the certification before taking office in January.

The approval was particularly significant for Peterson, who has attempted to attend the academy in the past.

Peterson told Willamette Week last year that he first asked Reese to allow him to apply for this certificate in 2016. According to Peterson, Reese's answer was relayed through then-chief of corrections Mike Shults. Here's how Peterson characterized that conversation: "The essence of the conversation was that if I chose to go to the academy, he would demote me to lieutenant and put me on the graveyard [shift]." Peterson, who is Black, characterized the rejection as just another barrier he's faced in his career as a person of color.

Reese, who has endorsed Morrisey O'Donnell, told WW that this interaction never happened. The sheriff's office reiterated this claim Thursday. The office also shared a statement from Shults who alleged that he never had the conversation with Peterson that Peterson described.

To Peterson, Reese's recent permission to apply to the academy shows that his campaign has helped move the needle for minorities in the criminal corrections field.

"This moment represents the culmination of 35 years of my personal and professional work and validates something I have longed for," said Peterson in a statement emailed to the Mercury. "Every day in our criminal justice system I see injustice. I also see resiliency and hope. Creating needed changes for these systems is a life's work and and that starts in the leadership at the top."

The election for the sheriff's position takes place next Tuesday, May 17. Peterson plans on joining the DPSST academy class that begins in August 2022.