It's been full week - lots of good stuff going on. Here's a snapshot.
? That vehicle workshop mentioned last week with the Board of County Commissioners went very well. Officer and public needs were prioritized. The Board of County Commissioners authorized an additional vehicle for this year and committed to a lower mileage (100,000) rotation schedule in order to minimize risk to everyone of mechanical failure at the high speeds that are sometimes necessary in emergency responses. Thank you.
? Had a drug court workshop with Judge Michael Sullivan, Court Clerk Virginia Leach, Prosecutor David Burke, the Board of County Commissioners and staff. Judge Sullivan is enthused about the possibilities and gave a description of the potential benefits. Cowlitz County Sheriff Bill Mahoney attended and described the successes Cowlitz County is seeing with their own drug court. We are exploring the details and coming up with an estimated cost for the Board of County Commissioners. On selected felony offenders there do seem to be benefits, both for them and the citizens. Stopping repeat offenders is far more cost effective in the long term than prolonged incarceration. Candidates would be hand-selected and failure would result in instant jail time. Violent crimes, sex offenses and weapons' offenses would be disqualifying. The defendant could not participate without the victim's consent. The focus would be on a drug dependent defendant who is willing to plead guilty up front and commit to at least 12 months of the program in lieu of jail time. If it would free up jail space and give a non-violent first time offender a second chance, it's worth a try in my opinion. The participants would be monitored, submit to drug testing and treatment and counseled until the drug court judge rules that they have successfully completed the program. Some of the objectives that participants must meet are to complete all treatment goals and objectives, be enrolled in school/GED programs or obtain full-time employment, and pay all fines, fees and restitution. We're working to come up with a price tag. It was a really positive workshop with potentially great benefits. I think the judge has a good idea here.
? Now into the land of acronyms. I'm on the WAJAC (Washington Joint Analytical Center) board. We met last week at WASPC (Washington Association of Sheriffs and Police Chiefs) to choose a R.I.G. (Regional Intelligence Group) Coordinator. We selected retired Thurston County Sheriff Gary Edwards. Gary's new job puts him in contact with all law enforcement agencies on our state's west side. He's a perfect fit to enhance the communication and sharing of intelligence from the smallest to the largest police agency. With Gary in charge, I know there will be a two-way flow of information that will help us deliver better service to you statewide.
? I was informed by the prosecutor that as a result of a recent Court of Appeals decision I could no longer address the court at sentencing hearings regarding plea bargains. If you noticed a dust cloud near South Bend, that was me. I understand the need for plea bargaining at times and teamwork between our offices. I strongly disagree with the decision as it takes away the ability of the court to hear from local law enforcement who has intimate knowledge of the case while allowing the State Department of Corrections through their Community Corrections Officer to still have input. It's another erosion of local control for law enforcement.
? Chief Flint Wright called about a citizens' group wanting to help fund a K-9 program. Flint knew that our office was also working on a K-9 project. We're going to work through PACNET to try to implement a K-9 program together. Here's another cooperative project that saves money and duplication of effort. I can't tell you how much I appreciate the chief and the city administrators' willingness to work together with us.
? Our jail just cannot continue to be a dumping ground for the mentally ill and drug dependent who rightfully should be in a treatment facility. This issue is one of our top priorities. This is a system's issue not unique to our county. A couple of incidents this week were reflective of these co-occurring disorders - both ended up in jail. It's kind of like, "Which came first, the chicken or the egg?" Did the drug abuse or the mental disorder drive the crime or cause the person to be an imminent danger to themselves or others. If there is a mental health disorder then sometimes emergency involuntary treatment is available. If the diagnosis is drug-driven then they are stuck detoxing in jail.
I've gotten some nice comments and great feedback on this effort to let you know law enforcement from the inside out. If you have suggestions for a specific issue to discuss, please let me or the Observer know. I'd also like to know your priorities for law enforcement services. I'm trying to brainstorm more ways to gather your input. I look forward to hearing from you.