WALLA WALLA — County Sheriff John Turner and his supporters claim challengers Barry Blackman and Tom Cooper can’t come close to Turner’s education, training and experience for the job.
Turner is the only one with a bachelor’s degree, a law degree and who has participated in various professional colleges and institutes, according to a candidate comparison on his website.
A former Los Angeles police officer, Turner also has experience in gang units, undercover work, labor law and even international counterterrorism.
He took umbrage when acknowledging he has never, alone, fully investigated a criminal case from start to finish in Walla Walla County. But he says, as elected sheriff, he performs administrative duties for and oversees investigations.
And, in the past, he has performed more investigations than his opponents, including probes that far surpass many local cases in depth and complexity, he says.
Furthermore, Turner, 50, points to a long list of accomplished goals, community partnerships and programs he says have been successful since he took office in 2011.
He also claims the nearly 20 percent reduction in serious felony crimes in unincorporated areas of the county last year is due to new crime-fighting strategies and deployment of resources.
Of his accomplished goals, he says:
- His team established 24/7 patrol coverage to deter crime and respond when it occurs in an effort to make our community safer.
- Re-established the patrol K-9 program with two dogs bought with money donated through the citizen-led Sheriff’s Foundation, which was set up early in his administration.
“To date, (the K-9s have) been very successful,” he told the Union-Bulletin. “There’s been many felony finds and arrests that are attributed to our K-9 teams. I think they’ve been a great asset to our crime-fighting efforts.”
- Established the Walla Walla Strategic Gang Initiative in partnership with the Walla Walla Police Department, community groups, social service agencies, schools, parents and teachers.
“I think that the initiative meets the goals of modern law enforcement in that criminal gang activity and surrounding activity is not something that a law enforcement agency can arrest their way out of,” Turner said. “There needs to be a community approach for prevention and intervention, along with strong suppression and enforcement.”
- Established quarterly Sheriff’s Roundtable community meetings around the county to gather information on how to serve them better.
In addition to accomplished goals, Turner cites other accomplishments as:
- Being nominated by sheriffs from across the state for a national sheriff of the year award.
- Receiving the National Sheriffs Association Medal of Merit in February for commendable contributions to the community.
- Establishing a branch sheriff’s office within the Columbia Middle School in Burbank.
- Renegotiating a contract with Providence St. Mary Medical Center and changing County Jail procedures to reduce inmate medical costs. The average medical cost per inmate day was reduced from $6.08 in 2011 to $3.29 in 2013.
- Establishing a chaplains program and a clerical volunteer program.
- Providing a strong presence at the county fair.
- Quickly attaining arrests of suspects connected with a gang-related murder in the county last winter.
“We have a high quality of life and we have a wonderful town and we have a wonderful county, and my behind-the-scenes job as sheriff is to maintain that,” he told the Union-Bulletin.
Turner maintains he has wide support from law enforcement officials, including the endorsement of every county sheriff in Washington state.
Mitch Barker, executive director for the Washington Association of Sheriffs and Police Chiefs, said sheriffs in the association voted in 2010 to support each other as incumbents during election years.
Barker added that the association held a meeting in 2013 in which sheriffs were allowed to garner election support through sign-up sheets.
Turner’s priorities for a second term include:
- Continuing his zero-tolerance stand on criminal gang activity, while at the same time continuing to partner with families, community members, local social service agencies, and law enforcement agencies for prevention and intervention efforts.
- Continuing to partner with county schools to further protect children.
- Increasing the number of volunteer reserve deputies who provide law enforcement services to the community.
- Conducting a Reserve Deputy Academy.
- Continuing to increase efficiency and effectiveness by cross training a patrol K-9 in narcotics detection; monitoring and improving administrative, civil and financial services; and monitoring and improving County Jail operations.
Retired Walla Walla police Chief Chuck Fulton, a member of Turner’s campaign committee, said he hopes the public focuses on what should be the real issues of the campaign.
“It’s important to look at what (Turner) has accomplished, what he plans to be doing, what he has done and the proactive approach to (community and law enforcement) problems,” Fulton said.
Turner also hopes voters will look favorably on his background and commitment.
“When you take a look at an entire person that makes up the entire candidate, and you compare my education to my opponents’, and you compare my experience to my opponents’, and you compare my accomplishments to my opponents’, I’m in high hopes that the public will look at those things and realize, wow, he’s, he’s our guy.
“He’s the guy we still want to be sheriff.”
U-B reporters Luke Hegdal and Andy Porter contributed to this report. Terry McConn can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 526-8319.