Consultants: Train truck inspectors like officers
PORTLAND — Consultants hired after a Clackamas County employee was shot to death on the job say truck inspectors called weighmasters should either be trained like law enforcement officers or their power to pull over commercial vehicles should be curtailed.
Five months ago, weighmaster Grady Waxenfelter stopped a truck hauling wood near Boring, southeast of Portland, because it didn't have a license. Authorities say they believe the shooter mistook him for an officer, The Oregonian reported Monday.
Weighmasters protect county roadways from overweight trucks. They stop drivers to counsel them on trucking rules and regulations but don't write tickets or make arrests.
They wear a black uniform shirt that resembles an officer's and drive unmarked vehicles that look like police cars, which might make drivers believe officers are pulling them over, said Wes Curtis and Tim Huegel of Commercial Truck Consulting.
That perception means Clackamas County should be training weighmasters on how to use pepper spray, conduct themselves at traffic stops, write tickets and make arrests, and other duties authorized under Oregon law, the consultants said.
They said the county offers little training for weighmasters and no safety equipment. Each inspector's car is equipped with a dispatch radio, but they are not required to use them, Curtis and Huegel found.
In the Feb. 6 shooting that killed Waxenfelter, suspect Dirck White of Edgefield, Washington, fled the scene, police said. His record in Washington includes convictions for assault, drugs and weapons violations. He is wanted for questioning in a case and has a warrant for a firearms violation.
The last report on White's whereabouts came from Iowa in April, when U.S. marshals said they believed he drove a car from which somebody fired a handgun.
After the shooting, the county told its two weighmasters to stop pulling over trucks, spokesman Tim Heider said. That ban will continue while the county decides on the “future operational status of the program,” County Administrator Donald Krupp said Monday.
Inspectors will continue to process permits and do educational outreach.
Clackamas is among six counties in Oregon that have weighmaster programs not under the purview of a sheriff's office.
Information from: The Oregonian, http://www.oregonlive.com