On March 27, Whitman College hosted the third Walla Walla Violence Prevention Coalition Conference, co-sponsored by many local organizations and institutions and funded partially with a grant from the U.S. Department of Justice.
The expert presenters and community members who attended showed strong commitment to preventing violence and remediating its effects in the Walla Walla Valley.
In particular, I want to recognize Sheriff John Turner’s and Police Chief Scott Bieber’s support for coalition endeavors such as this conference, and for their extraordinary leadership working to prevent crime. Their cooperation and joint efforts are evident in many endeavors that benefit our community; this conference is simply one recent example.
Turner and Bieber led two sessions together at the Whitman conference: “Cuppa Joe with ‘The Man’” (an informal workshop in which attendees could ask questions and discuss law enforcement concerns), and “Walla Walla Strategic Gang Initiative and Clearinghouse of Hope.”
Turner, along with two of his deputy sheriffs, also led a third session demonstrating the work of the K-9 teams.
Bieber’s and Turner’s gang presentation focused on comprehensive efforts developed by their law enforcement agencies — along with community leaders, educators and social service providers — to address the roots of gang involvement and other forms of youth crime in the Walla Walla region.
These two leaders exemplify key principles that make me optimistic about our community’s future.
First, they embrace the fact that we must understand and deal with the causes of social problems (like crime) in order to truly resolve them.
Second, they know that tackling difficult problems requires working constructively together.
Third, they are building on already existing community strengths, and partnering with established organizations such as neighborhood coalitions, schools and faith communities, to create genuine progress and hope.
I have focused on violence-prevention efforts in different locales for over 25 years, and Walla Walla is unquestionably the best place to do this work. We are very fortunate to have combined law enforcement leadership that is absolutely unique in its qualifications, professionalism, effectiveness and vision.
I’m grateful the sheriff and chief contribute their substantial energies and talents to improving the quality of life in our Valley.
Kari L. Tupper