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 firstname.lastname@example.org