Why would I spend a day listening to Douglas County Sheriff’s Department employees talk about their jobs? Because understanding how they work and who they are helps me publish more accurate information. Why should you care? You pay law enforcement in an era where shrinking public budgets is supposed to create jobs and improve our lives. That idea is overcooked.
The Civil Division serves legal documents, performs evictions and enforces court orders. Its Chief is Civil Deputy Kelly A Soltwisch, who’s so well respected she’s been reappointed by the last three Sheriffs. The division uses paper-less processing, a performance better than eighty percent of Washington counties. When a County conviction was not posted in other counties, her office confirmed the conviction as a third strike before sentencing was completed in another county. Evidence carefully kept on file since the 1990s helped local detectives validate the killer in 2012, bringing a sense of peace to the victim’s family. Indiscriminate national and local budget cuts threaten thorough law enforcement.
Chief Soltwisch serves court ordered immediate, night-time eviction notices accompanied by bank and landlord representatives. Asked if such evictions could put families with babies on the street, she left no doubt she’d have the courage to tell those representatives they needed to a better way for this family. Do we really believe we’d serve society better by unleashing banks and landlords where their only restraint would be competition of similar property owners?
Another espoused attitude I hear is government shouldn’t be able to tell us what to do. It tells some sex-offenders they must register with the local Sheriff’s department. Record-keepers told me how to identify four Level II offenders living within one mile of my home and two nearby elementary schools. Offenders must re-register and get re-fingerprinted in face-to-face meetings with workers. The Division prides itself on pleasant, respectful treatment for those offenders who are obeying the law because such service increases the likelihood they will re-register.
The Sheriff’s responsibility to protect federal critical dam infrastructure on the Columbia River has allowed the Sheriff to partially equip marine patrols and a Special Response Team with funds from the Bureau of Reclamation, US Army Corps of Engineers and Homeland Security. Marine patrol recently rescued somebody’s son who attempted suicide from a bridge. The SRT responds about four times a year for drug raids and domestic violence. They also have plans to respond to every local school in the event of violence. If Congress cuts those federal agencies, how would we maintain our local capacity to protect us?
Another high decibel complaint I hear is government shouldn’t intrude on what I can and cannot do with my body. Sheriff patrols tell people they can’t drive after making DUI arrests. I don’t mind those intrusions since traffic crime affects me more than any other crime. In 2008 Chelan-Douglas accidents cost $80 million, mostly because of speeding and impaired driving. Sixty people per month were arrested locally for DUI, and thirty two were arrested for speeding. If we shrink sheriff patrols, how is the free market place going to make me safer?
And if they take my cell phone after I crash, why do they have to right to open it and get information about who I’m talking to? Sheriff’s detective may open it, but first they have to fill out paperwork and get approval to ask for a search warrant from their supervisor, prosecuting attorney and a judge, a day-long process. Detectives better have a good cause. And by the way, they need to take time away from investigating homicides like the local Cowell case, where they’ve been involved with 100 interviews, each of which has to be transcribed word for accurate word.
Before you rally around cutting taxes to limit government and create jobs, we need to recognize what good government requires so we can keep those jobs that are being performed well by proud public servants.