COQUILLE — Coos County Sheriff’s Office Capt. Kelley Andrews can’t help but crack a smile as he reflects back on his more than 20-year career with the Sheriff’s Office.
“This by far has been one of the best agencies I’ve ever seen,” said Andrews. “It’s always willing to go the extra mile and step up and step forward whenever somebody needs help.”
At Tuesday’s Coos County Commissioner’s meeting in Coquille, Andrews announced he will be retiring from the department on Oct. 31.
After serving in the Charley Company, 1st Battalion, 9th Marine Regiment at Camp Pendleton in California, Andrews said he began thinking of his next career step as his time in the military was nearing an end.
“When I was in the Marine Corps I was made a ‘prisoner chaser’ for my battalion,” said Andrews. “I was in charge of taking guys that had been incarcerated in the jail on base to their court appearances and such.”
From 1986 to 1988, Andrews served in the U.S. Marine Corp, where he also worked as a machine gunner and spent a year guarding the Marine Barracks at the Guantanamo Bay Naval Station in Cuba.
As a young 12-year-old student in Riddle, Andrews said he knew he wanted to join the military early on. Oftentimes, he could be found reading countless books on American military history and immersing himself in its stories.
“I had some uncles in the military, but to be honest, no one in my immediate family was,” said Andrews. “I am an avid history buff and I started reading a lot about WWII. The stuff I was reading was just real complementary to the Marine Corps and they’re the best so I joined.”
Before joining the sheriff’s office in 1995, Andrews was a reserve officer for the Myrtle Creek Police Department and the Coos Bay Police Department. He later joined the sheriff’s office and worked his way up through the years starting out as reserve deputy to his most current title of captain. He has also worked in numerous divisions with the department sharpening his skills and building upon his experience.
Andrews has worked in corrections, marine patrol, timber patrol and standard patrol deputy. In March 2001, he was promoted to detective, a position where he investigated child abuse crimes in the county for about three years.
“It was one of my most rewarding positions,” said Andrews. “I got to help victims of these horrendous crimes start their healing process and put away their offenders.”
Following budget cut layoffs in 2007, Andrews went back to patrol and later joined the narcotics department as a detective and was promoted to sergeant in 2013. He also underwent crisis negotiation training through an FBI-led weeklong course in Portland. It was this vital training he recalled in 2005, he was faced with a suicidal Bandon resident, who had barricaded himself in his home with a .38 caliber handgun intent on killing himself.
According to Andrews, he began negotiations while the Emergency Response Team was setting up. He recalls developing a rapport with the Bandon resident and using various techniques to get him to calm down. With three young children in the home, Andrews said he was able to get him to release them and eventually he came out and surrendered peacefully.
“We are not therapists and we are not going to fix people’s problems, but we can help them in that moment of crisis,” said Andrews. “It was a huge success for us.”
Among his accomplishments, Andrews said he’s mostly proud of the collaboration between Sheriff’s Office and Coos Health and Wellness Counselor Ross Acker that he was able to facilitate. The two were instrumental in offering an interactive, yearly crisis intervention training seminar for law enforcement agencies throughout the county. For about two years, the weeklong training course pairs local mental health advocates with officers and deputies to go over usable techniques for de-escalating a crisis situation.
“Acker and I had done some ride-alongs together and we noticed there was a need," said Andrews. “We dealt with it very rarely in the late 90s and early 2000s, but now it’s a daily occurrence. The (deputies and officers) are really receptive to learning the tactics because they all just want to help people. It makes my heart feel good seeing this come to fruition.”
He is hoping the sheriff’s office will formulate an in-house crisis negotiation team and continue working to create improved relations with the community’s mental health organizations and community members.
For the future, Andrews said he plans on first taking some personal time with his wife of 19 years to relax and decompress from the job. As a longtime history enthusiast, he said he also wants to use his investigative skills to do some research and writing examining the county’s history.
“I have great admiration for guys and ladies who write local history books,” said Andrews. “I could write a book…I’d love to do a contemporary history of the sheriff’s office or the Coos Forest Protective Association.”
With over 20 years logged in, Andrews said he’s had numerous mentors and people help him out along the way that he is thankful for. Among them he recognizes, Sheriff Craig Zanni, retired Capt. Pat Downing, and retired dispatchers Ann Rakosi and Theresa Thaxton as some of his big influences as well as his wife, Deborah, a retired Army veteran and former police officer.
“As far as my legacy, I just want people to look back and go, ‘Hey I remember Kelley Andrews and he did a good job.’”