Cheney Free Press -

By JOHN McCALLUM
Editor 

Oakes named Cheney's officer of the year

Second selection for nearly seven-year veteran

 

February 1, 2018

John McCallum

Cheney police Officer Chris Oakes has been named the 2017 Officer of the year. It's the second time he's received the award.

It's a tough shift for many, but Cheney police Officer Chris Oakes doesn't mind pulling patrol duty on the graveyard shift. The late night to early morning timeframe presents many challenges that day shifts don't often have - beginning with the obvious.

"It's always dark, which is a challenge," Oakes, the department's 2017 Officer of the Year, said.

It's the second time Oakes has received the award, being selected by his peers in 2014. The Tacoma-native has served with the department since 2011, beginning as a reserve and then as a full-time officer after completing academy training in 2013.

Prior to that, the 2002 Gig Harbor High School graduate served in the U.S. Army with the 173rd Airborne, seeing combat during two, one-year tours in Iraq and Afghanistan. After his discharge in 2006, a friend lured Oakes to the area in 2009 where he eventually graduated from Spokane Falls Community College before hooking up with the Cheney police department.

Oakes said he worked graveyard shift as a new officer for several years before moving to days for three years. This is his second year back patrolling during the late-night to crack of dawn hours where the calls he answers present their own unique challenges. One of those is that fact that many times, the individuals he encounters are under the influence of something.

"How do you reason with somebody who's intoxicated?" Oakes said.

More often, the calls Oakes and fellow officers are responding to are becoming violent. Oakes said at least once a weekend they get a call for service where guns are involved.

Officers deal with these situations as best they can, Oakes said, adding that a lack of manpower often adds to their challenges. Fortunately, Cheney officers have not been involved in any incidents that have escalated to a shots-fired situation, something Oakes attributes to training and the type of officer the department hires.

"The quality of police officers here is very good," Oakes said. "We're lucky to have that."

Oakes enjoys the challenges presented by being a problem-solver, learning to think creatively when dealing with a broad spectrum of people dealing with a wide variety of issues.

"Nothing is black and white; even similar calls are different in how you solve them," Oakes said. "(You'll have) shots fired on one call, then turn around and change the batteries on someone's smoke detector on another. I like that fact that you can help people here, and everybody does that."

Oakes also serves as the department's firearms instructor, dealing with tactics and safety. In addition, he teaches active shooter response training not only to officers but citizens, and provides instruction on when and how to use force in situations, stressing the balance of understanding the legal aspects along with the need for defense.

"Knowledge is power when it comes to it (use of force)," Oakes said. "All of these guys are up on it."

In a news release announcing his selection, Cheney Police Chief John Hensley said Oakes received the Outstanding Cop award from his classmates at the academy in 2012.

"The award goes to the cadet another officer would pick as a partner before entering into any dangerous situation or to just have a cup of coffee with," Hensley said. "He (Oakes) is tactically capable, an easy-going guy and now a two-time winner of the Officer of the Year award.

In addition, Oakes received a Lifesaving Award in 2012 from the International Association of Police Chiefs and was a 2012 "Best of the West" selection by the West Plains Chamber of Commerce.

John McCallum can be reached at jmac@cheneyfreepress.com.

 

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