Like you, I am sickened by Friday’s events at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn. The victims, their families and all who are affected by such a horrific event are in the conversations, thoughts and prayers of those of us in the Sheriff’s Office. Events such as this bring home the realities of this world and strengthen our resolve as a law enforcement agency to protect and serve our own wonderful community here in Walla Walla County.
The reality of this event is that we are all affected in some way. The important thing is we absolutely ensure something good comes from such a terrible incident.
We must start by not worrying so much about the small, insignificant stuff and start taking the time to appreciate one another and our community a bit more. We are so very blessed here in Walla Walla County.
We must never take for granted what we have and we must resolve to protect the sanctity of life, to protect children — protect our communities! Sadly, I believe the days of just ignoring reality and saying, “that’s not my problem” or “that doesn’t happen here” need to become a thing of the past.
Although an active shooter event is highly unlikely, we must nevertheless prepare ourselves to run, hide and fight. Please view and share the “Run, Hide, Fight” video at bit.ly/OrgQm3 . This video contains information which could save your life or the life of a loved one somewhere.
As public safety officials we have done a good job preparing to respond, but this is reactive — it is after the fact, and alone is not the best way to approach this problem. We must also work toward prevention, interruption and mitigation.
A good friend of mine who is a police chief in Texas recently spent a week at the Federal Law Enforcement Training Center. We conrresponded after Friday’s tragic event about his training, which provided insights.
Out of this training emerged a series of recommendations to create the foundation allowing us to move forward in a way that will create a more holistic and collaborative approach, focusing first on prevention/interruption/mitigation, and then on response.
Identify suspicious activity:
Notify an appropriate authority (e.g. police, school, clergy, etc.) of anything suspicious, out of place, and simply not right. These authorities must then work collaboratively for appropriate resolve.
Evaluate the information by conducting an appropriate risk assessment.
Act in a responsible manner that prevents, interrupts or mitigates violence in our community.
If need be, run, hide, fight.
Additionally, I ask that we work as a team.
Please notify us if you observe suspicious activity — call 9-1-1, call non-emergency dispatch at (509) 527-3265 or call the Sheriff’s Office at (509) 524-5400. You will be forwarded to the appropriate person to help you.
Please do not assume we know of something going on — you may be the first person to let us know. By making us aware, you give us the opportunity to evaluate the information and take appropriate action.
For example, we were able to solve numerous local burglaries recently, make appropriate arrests and recover literally hundreds and hundreds of items of stolen property partially because of information we received from citizens.
I have talked to many folks who saw something or had information, but later shared with me they didn’t call because it “feels funny to call the cops for nothing” or “it doesn’t matter anyways.” Please don’t feel that way. If you have a legitimate concern, call us. That’s what we’re here for.
We as a community and as a nation must not allow incidents such as the Colorado movie theater shooting, Oregon Mall shooting, Las Vegas shooting and Connecticut school shooting to paralyze us with fear or panic. Instead, we must use them to increase our awareness and to strengthen our resolve to keep our community safe by working together.
I assure you the men and women of the Walla Walla County Sheriff’s Office are committed to protecting and serving our community, but it is not our job alone — we must work together as a community that cares!
John A. Turner is sheriff of Walla Walla County.