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Deputies In Oregon Town Go On Leave As State DOJ Investigates Sheriff

Seven deputies in Klamath County, Ore., have been on leave this week, after county commissioners agreed to their request. The move comes a month after Klamath County Sheriff Frank Skrah learned he was being investigated by Oregon's Department of Justice.

Citing an attorney who represents the Klamath County Peace Officers Association, Oregon Public Broadcasting says the deputies feared retaliation from the sheriff, after they were interviewed by the Oregon Department of Justice.

On Wednesday, Skrah issued a statement saying he hadn't been consulted about the decision to place the deputies on leave, and that he doesn't know the specifics of the state investigation.

Few details about the situation are available; citing several sources, The Oregonian reports that the investigation into Sheriff Skrah could center on the use of force.

The seven deputies are on "non-disciplinary administrative leave," OPB reports, citing a news release from the Klamath County Board of County Commissioners that confirmed the deputies had asked to be placed on leave.

Attorney Becky Gallagher, who represents the Klamath County Peace Officers Association, tells Amanda Peacher that the union's head, a corporal on the force, filed a complaint against Skrah alleging that he had sought to undermine the union's activities and punish its leader by changing the corporal's schedule and refusing to pay him overtime.

Peacher reports, "According to the Klamath County Sheriff's Office website, Skrah spent 25 years with the Los Angeles Police Department. He was elected as sheriff in November 2012."

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Bill Chappell is a writer and editor on the News Desk in the heart of NPR's newsroom in Washington, D.C.