Walla Walla County sheriff wraps up first round of gatherings

Sheriff John Turner plans to kick off another series of round tables in June.

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WALLA WALLA -- Hopes for the future and concerns about the present were among the issues Thursday at a Walla Walla County Sheriff's round table meeting.

The gathering at Walla Walla High School's commons room was the fourth, and concluding, community meeting staged by Sheriff John Turner, who is in his first term in office. Turner said he plans to conduct the round tables each quarter with meetings in Touchet, Waitsburg, Burbank and Walla Walla.

As at previous round tables, Thursday's meeting began with Turner and his staff introducing themselves and describing changes they are making to the office, including introduction of a 12-hour shift system, increasing efficiencies and improving training.

But, Undersheriff Edward Freyer noted, both the sheriff's office and jail must deal with budget cuts which have left positions unfilled. "We are bare bones, we are very, very thin" he said about the staffing situation.

Questions from the approximately 30 people in the audience ranged from "how short of people are you?" to "what options are there for civil service," referring to how to relieve deputies of the task of serving civil papers. Audience members also asked about how they might work as volunteers, what they could do to help support the office and whether there are plans for a program, or programs, to involve young people.

Along with Turner and Freyer, staff members at the round table included Operations Capt. Barry Blackman, Jail Superintendent Keilen Harmon and Shanda Zessin, head of the office's administrative division.

The next sheriff's round table will be held on June 21 at the Touchet High School library.

Andy Porter can be reached at andyporter@wwub.com or 526-8318. Check out his blog at blogs.ublabs.org/randomthoughts.

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