Lewis County Sheriff’s Office Brings its Mobile Command Unit to Southwest Washington Fair


The Lewis County Sheriff’s Office’s mobile command unit is easy to miss among the large, colorful attractions filling the Southwest Washington Fairgrounds this week.

The mid-sized white truck, one of two used by the sheriff’s office, is a recent addition to the sheriff office’s vehicle fleet — one that personnel prefer to the hulking refurbished mobile dental unit the department was driving before it acquired the smaller vehicle in early 2020.

“Our other one was nice. We took time to refurbish it … It was just the size of it that was impractical,” Field Operations Bureau Chief Dusty Breen told a Chronicle reporter at the fair on Wednesday.

The sheriff’s office traded that single large vehicle to Thurston County in early 2020 for three smaller vehicles and a boat to add to the department’s marine patrol unit.

One of those vehicles went to Lewis County for use in another department, leaving the sheriff’s office with the boat and two mobile command units to add to its vehicle fleet.

The smaller vehicle is still big enough to act as a command unit and has the added benefits of being easier to operate and better at navigating some of the county’s rougher rural roadways.

“It’s fairly new for us, but it’s been a great resource,” Breen said.

The mobile command unit acts as a temporary base of operations for sheriff’s office personnel, where deputies can monitor video feeds, keep an ear to the radio dispatch line and hold briefings, Breen said.

The back of the vehicle opens like a garage door so personnel can deploy drones and other equipment or talk to crews outside the command unit. Thanks to a partition that can create two distinct “rooms” inside the vehicle, they have a private space to take statements as needed, according to Breen. 

The command unit’s most useful feature, however, is a small, flat device mounted onto a wall behind a monitor: a Cradlepoint wireless router.

“These have been a game-changer,” said Breen, adding that the router provides personnel a stable network for communication purposes no matter where they are in the county. 

The sheriff’s office currently has hotspots installed in most of its vehicles, though the long-term goal is to have a wireless router installed in every vehicle, Breen said.

“We have to have a provider and systems that work county-wide,” he said.

The mobile command units are mostly deployed to major crime scenes and for search and rescue operations, said Breen, though one of them will remain parked across from the Midway Stage at the Southwest Washington Fairgrounds through the end of the fair on Sunday.

Sheriff’s office personnel are selling T-shirts and other swag outside the command unit while deputies mingle with fairgoers, pass out water and provide a helping hand when needed.

“We’re just walking around making sure everyone’s hydrated,” a deputy told a Chronicle reporter on Wednesday.