The tremendous following of concerned citizens who support Sheriff Turner and the Sheriff's Office is evidence that Walla Walla County residents place a high value on safety and accountability. At the Walla Walla Sheriff's Foundation organizational meeting Sheriff Turner was asked what is needed at the Sheriff's Office to be effective and what should be funded with money allocated through the county budget so the Foundation knows where it needs to focus its fund raising efforts.
Wednesday night Sheriff Turner gave us all a brief state of the union and what his priorities for the Sheriff's Office are.
He highlighted many other important county safety issues at this meeting and numerous ways to become more efficient and effective. Clearly, our top priority is making sure our deputies have safe and effective equipment, training and support.
Next, we have to deal with the gang problem. No one wants Walla Walla to look and feel like Yakima, which is exactly where we are headed with the increase in gang activity and the drugs and crime that they bring.
We need to spend the time and resources now to get ahead of the problem before we can't. How many millions have Yakima and Sunnyside spent trying to deal with their crime? We will be overwhelmed by the costs of indigent hospital care caused by gang violence and court appointed public defenders to defend the gang bangers while at the same time we pay for the county prosecutors to prosecute them.
There is a high cost to our county to incarcerate these criminals; pay for their health care; investigate their crimes. And I don't know any person on Earth who can count the human cost of living in a community taken over by gangs.
The county's primary role for the safety of its residents is allocating the public funds to the Sheriff's Office. It is a significant portion of their budget and I expect the county commissioners to work with Sheriff Turner in funding the Sheriff's Office needs. Politics with our county's safety will not be tolerated. We have elected John Turner to lead the Sheriff's Office and he has put together an awesome team. The Sheriff's Office needs people, equipment and training -- right now.
If emergency funds and increased Sheriff's Office funding was ever needed, that time is now.
Debora L Zalaznik