Watching over Communities: Insights from a Chief of Police on Peace and Security

Spread the love

Chief of police advocates for community

Community: Wilsonville Chief of Police Rob Wurpes
By Olive Gallagher, Contributing Writer

Chief Of Police

When most of us lock the door at the end of the day and turn out the light, we trust we’re safe for the night and if there’s a problem, help is as close as 9-1-1. We assume there’s someone watching over our town, managing problems, deploying resources, ready to advise and help us when we need protection.

Rob Wurpes, Wilsonville Chief of Police, is just that person for the city. He keeps, as they say, “the trains running on time” while inspiring others to do their best. An advocate of “community policing,” Rob was himself encouraged from an early age to value and emulate public service and devotion to duty.

Rob is the son of immigrant parents who came here in search of the American dream from Munich, Germany, and settled in Vancouver, Washington. While his mom stayed home and raised Rob and his younger sister, his dad, an electrician by trade, repaired machinery. His mom died when Rob was 12 and that traumatic experience taught him, among other things, resilience in the face of loss and grief. Some of his happiest childhood memories were the summers he’d spent in Germany with his uncle and cousin who were policemen.

An average student, Rob particularly enjoyed school for its social component. He discovered he could make friends easily and honed his extroverted skills in building relationships, something essential in his chosen career.

At 19, after finishing high school, keenly aware he wasn’t yet ready for college, he joined the Army and was deployed to the Middle East, where he experienced battle during the Gulf War. That experience, in which he was tested amid the devastation of human warfare, formed many of the qualities he relies upon today.

Returning home and continuing to serve in the National Guard and keenly aware that law enforcement still intrigued him, he enrolled at Clark College on the GI bill and studied liberal arts. While completing this two-year program, Rob worked part time at night loading trucks to earn his way while researching a path to policing, having discovered that it was very challenging to get into any force in the area. Finally, he earned his Class-A license to drive a truck while applying everywhere in the Metro area, doing ride-alongs with the Clark County Sheriff’s Office as well as attending the Multnomah County Sheriff’s Reserve Program at night. In 1999, he was hired by Clackamas County and sent to the State Academy in 2000. He met his wife, Jeanette, in 2001, and they now have two teenage youngsters.

Police Diver

“Policing is a lot more complex than ticketing speeding folks or handling the fallout from robberies or violence,” he explains. “There are numerous procedures and constitutional rights that form a foundation for everything we do. We’re asked to solve a wide range of issues, from helping neighbors with conflict resolution to handling a plane crash, and each situation requires a specific range of knowledge that must be followed.”

When asked from where his courage and confidence emanates, Rob answers thoughtfully, “ I think we’re all afraid of things — that’s a natural, biological response. It’s how you manage the fear. You must recognize it, respect it, even if it takes a minute — breathing helps — and then you move forward.” He continues, “Along with the predictable flight or fight response, there’s also the value of ‘freezing.’ Predators are often motion-sensitive. Some species survive close encounters by remaining seemingly frozen in place.”

Rob sums up his philosophy about effective leadership: “You’re never going to know everything, but you’ll have a long list of people to ask for help.”

That simple statement reflects the invaluable, magical power of respectful and strong relationships. Wilsonville is, indeed, so fortunate to have someone with Rob’s perspective, intelligence, sensitivity and skill watching over all of us.