Walla Walla County sheriff reflects on two years of serving

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Where have two years gone?

The first two years of my four-year term as county sheriff have flown by. What a great two years they have been.

I feel extremely blessed and I’m very grateful for the dedicated and professional men and women who make up our Walla Walla County Sheriff’s Office.

The first two years have been filled with positive achievements due to the hard work of many.

We now have patrol coverage 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Patrol deputies and corrections officers work in designated squads as a team, which has increased safety and service. This new deployment system has also allowed for regular on going, in-service training every eight weeks and staffing for our county fair with minimal overtime.

We implemented a chaplain program with two wonderful volunteer chaplains who serve members of our office and our community.

Our local volunteer search and rescue team was awarded for its hard work the state SAR association’s top county award for 2012.

The Sheriff’s Office has worked hard to prioritize needs to serve our community better — work flow is smoother, communication is better and accountability of resources and finances are stronger. Internal controls and procedures have been developed to ensure integrity, transparency and accountability.

We have been able to improve our equipment increasing the safety of our employees and the public with the help of the community.

We have partnered with the Washington State Penitentiary, Walla Walla Police Department, other agencies and community groups on a regular basis to curb violence and increase public safety.

Moving forward, the Sheriff’s Office has a crystal-clear vision, mission and core values. We have hired top notch people as positions have become available. They all have graduated at the top of their classes at the Washington State Corrections or Basic Law Enforcement academies.

We have made some personnel changes in the best interest of the agency and all who work here. Change and progress are often not easy, but all were contemplated and made with dedication and devotion to a cause larger than each one of us; that being the safety of our county, its citizens, visitors and children.

Over the last two years, I have recognized two recurring issues which our deputies and officers face day after day — gangs and drugs. We’ll be enhancing our expertise to better address these issues.

In March, John King will be joining the Sheriff’s Office as our chief operations deputy. John brings 34 years of law enforcement experience with the DEA and LAPD, most recently as the officer in charge of a major enforcement squad within Gang and Narcotics Division. Coincidently, John announced his desire to move his family to the Pacific Northwest around the same time that Chief Deputy Barry Blackman was discussing his plans to retire.

John’s original plan was to work for a law enforcement agency in Western Washington, but a couple visits to beautiful Walla Walla changed that plan and we welcome him on board to help make Walla Walla the best county in the nation to live, work, play and raise a family.

Since then, we were also glad to hear that Barry Blackman has decided to not retire at this time. He advised us that he would prefer to stay on the team a while longer and be reassigned to another supervisory position. These moves allow the Sherrif’s Office to gain expertise and provide quality service while modeling, mentoring, nurturing and empowering the next generation of talent and leadership.

While John brings the talent, experience and collaborative personality we can use to aggressively and effectively address crime, gang activity and drugs in our county, I admit I wish John was joining us from anywhere other than the LAPD because of how that may be perceived by some in the community because I was an LAPD officer.

After conversations with citizens, the recurring consensus is we cannot sacrifice protecting and serving our county the best we can because of some possibility of false perceptions. The future and what’s at risk are too important to pass up extraordinary opportunities.

Undersheriff Eddie Freyer recently participated in a national think-tank on school violence and responses for immediate action to all critical incidents. This is a wonderful opportunity for our Sheriff’s Office to be on the cutting edge of preparedness. Eddie’s position paper on this topic was well received and will be included as a direction for this group’s efforts to increase preparedness and develop a nationally accepted course of action to improve the skills and abilities of first responders to critical incidents.

We recently launched our local three-part school and safety plan.

Part one was to contact all school district superintendents, share our awareness of recent tragedies, answer questions and coordinate our efforts with them.

Part two is under way and involves “walk & talks” at all schools within the county including Prescott and Waitsburg. As you know, Wa-Hi already has an awesome full-time school resource officer in Deputy Scott Brashear. Other deputies will now be making a concerted effort to stop in at all other county schools and simply “walk and talk” with teachers, faculty and students during school hours and at after hour events.

Part three is a comprehensive review of emergency plans and state data bases. Once the review and data base updates have been done, part three will include joint emergency drills. Our partnership and commitment to our schools and children remain steadfast.

The last two years for me as your sheriff have been terrific. Thank you for the opportunity and privilege. I am motivated, optimistic and excited about Walla Walla County’s future and what we can accomplish together.

John Turner is Walla Walla County’s sheriff . He can be reached at jturner@co.walla-walla.wa.us

Comments

pickyeater2 1 year, 7 months ago

Turner does not write the truth. Barry Blackman did not ask to be reassigned as written "He advised us that he would prefer to stay on the team a while longer and be reassigned to another supervisory position." Turner demoted Blackman so that he could bring his friend to WW. Barry adamantly opposed any move.

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ImJustSayin 1 year, 7 months ago

And you DO write the truth? Doubtful.

On a side note, special mention should be given to Commander Harmon and his officers for their excellent performance at the jail.

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BestForWallaWalla 1 year, 7 months ago

It may seem like a short two years to John, but to the many others who have had to deal with him and his ways it has seemed much longer. Ask an county commissioner, especially the one who had to quit because of Johns continued behavior. Barry Blackman was being demoted in another effort to surround John with his own from out of area people.

This letter was typical John letter:

LOOK WHAT I HAVE DONE, PAT ME ON THE BACK!!!

I'm sure the next two years will be as painful for many as this first two have been having to hear how great he is. Just know the next election is in two years, and there will be a very solid choice for the voters next time. And we will have the ability to get a quality person into this position.

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carcrazy 1 year, 7 months ago

Who is this very solid choice that you speak of? It's not too early to start campaigning.

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Use.Wisdom 1 year, 7 months ago

I've noticed a marked increase in sheriff patrols traveling through our streets since Sheriff Turner was elected. Thanks Sheriff Turner!

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loplover 1 year, 7 months ago

I'll be a lot quicker to pat the Sheriff on the back when I see a real reduction in the amount of gang-related crime in the area. So far all I've seen is the number of shootings, stabbings, and the like go up. It could be the fact that people go to prison for years simply for having a Vicodin that's not in the correct bottle while shooting or stabbing another human being is plea-bargained down to thirty days in the county jail. Just goes to show you where our society's priorities are. Violent crimes should never be plea-bargained down to misdemeanors. Shooting or stabbing another person should automatically mandate a prison sentence, especially when the crime is related to gang activity.

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ImJustSayin 1 year, 7 months ago

Is your beef with the Sheriff or the PA?

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loplover 1 year, 7 months ago

Obviously plea bargains mostly are determined by the prosecutor, so it really isn't a reflection on the Sheriff. It's just something I get frustrated every time I read about it, and this seemed a good place to comment. Since all law enforcement leaders in the area are working together to find solutions to the gang problem, perhaps this is something they could change. It's supposedly helped in other gang-wracked towns, anyway. In my opinion, gang violence is the worst crime problem we have in Walla Walla, and the one most likely to prevent new people, especially retirees, from moving here.

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campbell_rd 1 year, 7 months ago

Sheriff Turner and his staff are professional, knowledgeable and talented. We are blessed to have the commitment of him and his staff and well as the high level of knowledge. The Sheriff does a lot for the community with less resources. If anyone were to ask me, I'd have to suggest that perhaps the commissioners should try actually working with the Sheriff instead of putting up walls everywhere. My family and myself are much safer with the current sheriff office staff and I appreciate them. Especially John Turner and Eddie Freyer, but there are many more!

As for the pat on the back statements, when I read the article the Sheriff clearly thanks his great staff and volunteers, that seems humble and appreciative to me. No where did he state, "look what I did by myself".

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wallanative1966 1 year, 7 months ago

@ Loplover- I think you should be addressing the Walla Walla City Police Chief also. Sheriff Turner and his Staff deal with everything out in the County and I don’t see many Gangs in Prescott, Waitsburg, and Touchet, do you? It is the Chiefs job to handle the Gang issues also. Stop blaming it all on Sheriff Tuner; he is doing a great job!

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DocDoc 1 year, 7 months ago

Maintaining quality and moving an organization forward is always a top concern for the leader. Undersheriff Fryer has great credentials and experience. He also has family and other interests outside Walla Walla, so replacing him with like quality/experience is important, whether it is internal or external and you do not get that experience in Walla Walla.

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loplover 1 year, 7 months ago

I'm not blaming it on the Sheriff. However, one of the platforms he ran on was that he was going to bring his big-city experience to bear on our gang problem. Perhaps he is doing that; perhaps, as you say, it is up to the city police. Obviously he isn't in charge of the plea bargains that seem to allow gang members to plead down on violent crimes to misdemeanors that only cost them 30 days in jail, if that. I know that there are cities in our area, like Sunnyside and Yakima, that have fought their gang problems with means that include prison time for any violent gang-related crime.

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Jo99362 1 year, 7 months ago

The bigger issue is what is being done at Wa-Hi since that's where the gang/drug issues are, it's the sheriff's jurisdiction but the school district won't allow a drug dog to do a sweep of the place.

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