Burch retires after 23 years with Sheriff’s Office

By Alex Paul
Linn County Communications Officer

In 2012, Linn County Sheriff’s Office Deputy Rick Burch was off-duty shopping at Fred Meyer when he helped provide CPR to an unconscious man lying on its floor. When emergency medical technicians arrived to revive the man, Burch left and had to be tracked down by a store staff member to thank him.

That’s just one example showing how much the 51-year-old Burch dislikes being in the spotlight, Sheriff Michelle Duncan said during his April 18 retirement party, which heralded his 23 years of service to Linn County, plus two years with the Department of Public Safety Standards and Training in Salem.

Although Burch prefers just doing his job without fanfare, he was the Patrol Division Employee of the Year in 2010, earned a Life Saving Award for his efforts at Fred Meyer, won the Detectives Division Employee of the Year in 2019 and was named Supervisor of the Year in 2021.

“We have several letters in his file all talking about how compassionate he is during death investigations,” Duncan said. “He also once helped an elderly couple who had no heat in their home, find a hotel and move their belongings.”

Duncan said Burch has played an important role in teaching defensive tactics to LCSO staff as a leader instructor.

“He believes in doing things in the right way,” Duncan said.

Burch was born into a logging family and grew up in east Linn County, graduating from Sweet Home High School in 1988, where he played on the state champion football team, wrestled and threw the shot put. He joined his father Fred at Haley Logging while studying chemical engineering at Oregon State University. However, the young man left school after three years because he couldn’t afford tuition.

Burch enlisted in the Marine Corps and was stationed in Okinawa and El Toro, California, with the Tactical Air Command Center.

“We gathered data and basically, created war maps,” he said.

After his discharge, he was hired as an LCSO summer marine deputy along with fellow new hire Detective Lt. Randy Voight.

“It’s the best job in the entire Sheriff’s Office,” Burch said of patrolling Foster and Green Peter reservoirs.

In September 1997, he was hired full-time and worked patrol in the Sweet Home area until 2003, when he joined the Detectives Division working child abuse cases. In 2006 he became a class coordinator at the Department of Public Safety Standards & Training until returning to the LCSO in 2009, against an east county patrol deputy. Five years later, he went back to the Detectives Division and was promoted to Sergeant in 2020.

Burch said the most enjoyable part of his career has been working with outstanding people.

“They give so much of themselves and 90% of the time, we never meet those we help,” he said. “They do their jobs and help people get on with their lives.”

Burch was grateful that much of his career involved working in the Sweet Home area, where he grew up.

One of his most memorable cases involved interrogating a homicide suspect on Christmas night.

“We were just about to eat when I got the call,” Burch said. “We were interrogating the suspect, who was coming down after being on drugs for four days, and I asked him what we could do to get him to talk to us. He said he was hungry and really needed to eat.”

While wondering where to get food late on Christmas day, he saw a deputy with a bag of food from a local restaurant.

“I just grabbed it out of his hands,” he said, and the suspect confessed.

Burch and his wife, Katrina, have been married 19 years and have a 16-year-old daughter, Natalie, who attends West Albany High School.

Although he didn’t finish at Oregon State, Burch returned to higher education and earned a business degree from Northwest Christian College (now Bushnell University) in Eugene.

His hobbies include playing the stock market and woodworking.

Burch and his family plan to spend two weeks in Hawaii, where Katrina’s parents live and then he’s off to train for a new career as a polygraph operator. He will spend three months in southern California.

Burch said the new career will allow him to set his schedule and work as many or as few hours as he wants.

“I really just want to spend quality time with my family,” he said. “We have good people here and they are ready to take over without me.”