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Valor on the job, determination on the course


Pam Frisby gets medalClark County Sheriff Chuck Atkins awards
EWGA-PDX member Pam Frisby the
Medal of Valor.

By Holly Danks
EWGA-PDX Communications Director

If you’ve golfed with Pam Frisby, you know she’s steady, clutch and matter-of-fact.

Those characteristics serve her well off the course, too.The EWGA-PDX member and her corrections deputy partner each were presented a Medal of Valor, the “highest award given by the Clark County (Wash.) Sheriff’s Office,” for a deadly force incident involving a jail inmate who was trying to escape from a Vancouver hospital.

“They risked their lives to prevent this inmate from escaping custody,” Corrections Branch Cmdr. Mike Anderson said during a recent awards ceremony, describing what he called a “vicious attack” on Frisby and Deputy Elissa Black “by a cunning, career criminal prepared to do anything necessary to escape.”

The 66-year-old inmate, who was being held on weapons, escape, parole violation and bank robbery charges, showed symptoms of a stroke in the Clark County Jail, so was transferred to PeaceHealth Southwest Medical Center.

The next morning, May 18, 2017, Frisby and Black came on duty to guard him at the hospital. The medical staff asked that he be unshackled to sit in a chair to eat breakfast. In an instant, he pushed a nursing student and jumped at the deputies, punching them in the face and grabbing for their guns. When a Taser had no effect on the man, he was shot and killed.

Medical staff determined that the inmate had faked having a stroke.

“It was a tough situation, but we did handle it the way we had to,” Frisby said. “If we didn’t, it would have gone badly for the both of us…and everybody else” who happened to get in his way in the busy hospital, she continued. “I know he would’ve killed us. He was looking to create as many victims as he could.”

But even so, besides trying to keep themselves and the public safe, Frisby said it’s their job to try to protect the inmate, too. “We did what we were suppose to do in that we, as veteran deputies, exhausted all force options before using lethal force,” she noted.

Frisby, 55, has been a Clark County Sheriff’s deputy for about 15 years. Previously, she worked for the Portland Police Bureau after starting her law enforcement career with the Alaska Department of Corrections in 1989.

Following her older brother from Ketchikan, Alaska, to Willamette University in Salem, Frisby had intended to become a schoolteacher. But after she graduated with a degree in physical education, she went back home to Alaska to help care for her parents. She ended up taking a job at a mill and then at a prison “to start paying off bills.”

Frisby said she likes law enforcement because “it’s challenging in ways that other jobs aren’t – that’s an understatement, huh?” A few years earlier, at the same hospital, Frisby, working alone, was holding a suicidal patient at gunpoint when he pushed past her and jumped from the 7th floor. No shots were fired and the man died from the fall. After that, the Sheriff’s Office instituted two-deputy transports.

To unwind from the stress of her job, Frisby turns to sports. She said she “just happened onto” an EWGA Women’s Night at a Golfsmith in 2014 and decided to join “because it would fill the void” left when she had to quit playing softball because of injuries. 

“I’m glad I joined,” she noted. “I’ve met a lot of neat people and make a whole lot of new friends. And EWGA helps me try to play golf better.”

Last year, Frisby was on a Portland Chapter scramble team that played well enough to go all the way to the EWGA Championship Finals in Hot Springs Village, Ark. It was the first time she had even made it to Regionals, “so it was pretty cool,” she said, to go all the way to the finals of the world’s largest tournament for amateur women golfers.

Frisby learned to golf at an indoor facility about 30 years ago in Alaska, so she said she’s happy when she can get out and enjoy the lush beauty of courses in the Pacific Northwest and wherever EWGA takes her.

She’s always taking lessons, and plays as much golf as she can – weekends, in leagues and in tournaments.

“I just wish I would’ve started it sooner.”

EWGA-PDX friends salute Pam Frisby after she received a Medal of Valor. From left are: Cyndi Farrell,
Beverly Howard, Jen Piper, Esther Moe, Marilyn Morfitt, Deb Dalenberg, Pam, April Okazaki, Donna Gray,
Leslie Roberts and Patti Koffel.