Four years ago, I told the voters of Island County that I intended to take advantage of the foundation set by my predecessors to build a better public safety agency.
Despite many challenges created by the pandemic, legislative changes, and public concerns about police reform, the Island County Sheriff's Office remained open-minded and flexible and built a team and culture that has allowed us to grow and improve substantially in effort to meet community needs.
Public trust is critical to an effective law enforcement agency. To that end I established core values of Service, Professionalism, and Accountability. Our staff has embraced those terms and I believe it has resulted in a significant improvement in public trust.
I also implemented a performance evaluation program for our staff. We made significant investments in leadership, de-escalation and patrol tactics training, and added additional less lethal equipment and related training. We will continue to strive to make these necessary changes our community demands.
I have worked with mental health and addiction professionals to add opioid outreach and mental health responders to our team both on the streets and in the jail.
Working with our local state representatives, I obtained special funding from the state legislature to equip our deputies with body worn cameras without additional burden on the Island County budget.
We established safety and decision-making protocols that have resulted in a significant reduction of patrol car collisions and increased overall deputy and community safety.
A lot of progress has been made but staffing continues to be a challenge. When I took office in 2019, we had 39 funded criminal division deputy positions, several of which were vacant. We have since filled our vacancies and added 3 additional positions. We added an additional corrections deputy and 3 control room operators which put more corrections on "the deck" to make best use of their skills.
Attrition will continue to occur as senior staff retire and others make different career choices, but recruiting and hiring will be an ongoing priority and I will not stop looking for quality applicants to increase our staffing. Candidates and employees can rest assured that they will be hired, retained, and promoted based solely on their character, ability and performance. I have the luxury of leading a team of extremely talented and dedicated people.
Today more than ever, the Island County Sheriff's office needs a steady hand at the wheel. We cant afford to confuse "louder" with "leader." There is no room for polarization, bias, or extremism and I believe I have the personality, perspective, and leadership skills to lead this amazing team to the next level. I will continue to seek ways to improve our level of service to exceed community standards, maintain your trust and to provide the safest community our resources will allow. I would sincerely appreciate the opportunity to continue to serve Island County as your Sheriff.
I despise the fact that we have homeless people living on our streets. I would love for the problem to just go away. The reality is that isn't going to happen.
Based on my observations, a large portion of people living in the streets are suffering from mental illness, drug addiction or both. Often times the mental illness is a result of a lifetime of drug abuse. Some times they have suffered a job loss and lost their housing due to circumstances beyond their control. A small minority chose to live this way because it's preferable to a bad home situation.
As a culture and community, I believe we need to have the strength to hold people accountable, the compassion to give people a "hand up" and the discretion to avoid getting into the trap of endless "handouts."
No matter how we feel about it, the issue isn't going away without significant expense and community involvement. We can't wish the problem away and we can't be resistant to potential solutions simply because we don't like the problem.
I continue to believe that the solution to the drug abuse and addiction in our culture is a combination of education, treatment, and accountability.
We should do everything in our power to eliminate the flow of drugs into our country, and a policy of zero-tolerance for those who import and sell drugs on our streets should be enforced.
Those who are addicted and want help should be provided pathways for treatment, however crimes committed as a result of addiction should not be entirely excused. Unfortunately this isn't a "one and done" process. Addiction treatment often takes years and unfortunately some people never recover, but there have been some uplifting success stories as well.
Education about drug use should be a priority for our schools, families, and civic organizations. Anything we can do to reduce the market for drugs will be highly effective in reducing the overall problem. We have this problem because it is profitable; reducing the demand will reduce the supply.
American culture is the combined perspectives and cultural influences of the people of all walks of life who make up our population. There is no room for intolerance or hate. To paraphrase Dr. King, people should be judged by the content of their character not the color of their skin, country of origin, sexual orientation or anyother factors that make us individuals.
Traffic safety is more than speeding tickets. Proactive traffic enforcement saves lives. We have far too many injuries and fatalities related to traffic crashes in Island County. In addition to the human costs, traffic collisions cause significant impact on our precious tax dollars. The costs of engineering safer roadways, emergency response, insurance rates, and lost wages and subsequent medical bills due to injuries have an impact on our economy. We will continue to be as proactive in traffic enforcement and education as our resources will allow.