Law Enforcement Challenges in Washington County

Economy

Our biggest challenge is one shared by business, public agencies and tax payers alike – how to continue current services in a struggling economy? Funding for local programs continues to decline from federal, state and local sources. Absent encouraging economic news, we may face important policy decisions about local service priorities of all kinds. I am a strong voice to preserve public safety services in order to keep families safe, crime in check, and an environment where business can thrive.

Prescription Drug Use and Our Youth.

Prescription drugs are an emerging threat to youth. Overprescribing medications like Oxycodone (commonly known as Percocet, Percodan and Oxycontin) makes them accessible in household medicine cabinets, on the black market and at parties. Although legal to acquire with a prescription, these synthetic opiate painkillers are dangerously addictive. Increasingly, we see youth who develop addictions to these drugs turn to heroin because the high is very similar and heroin is often cheaper than black market Oxy. Our educational efforts focus on families and caregivers to keep prescription drugs locked up, and to encourage disposal when no longer needed. A secure prescription drug disposal box is located at the Sheriff’s Office main lobby and is available 24/7.

Responding to the Mentally Ill in Crisis.

We need to continue to partner in creative ways to minimize the potential for tragedy as increasing numbers of mentally ill, who are less supported by the state, walk our communities along the fringes of crisis. Law enforcement is often left as the last resort when someone calls 911 because an untreated mentally ill person is on the verge of violence, does not respond to reason, and in some cases is armed with a weapon. That scenario would be challenging to the police, the mentally ill person, or you, or me. While we are having success partnering with mental health specialists, and with Crisis Intervention Training for our deputies, there are not enough partners to serve all who are in need. That’s the challenge we have to keep working.

Marijuana – A Threat to Youth Today.

Oregon voters approved the Oregon Medical Marijuana Program (OMMP) in 1998. It is clear now that what we have is not what voters thought they were getting. OMMP supporters originally alleged it was for a small number of people who were sick and dying. Today there are well over 55,000 cardholders in Oregon, 94.2% of those cards were issued for severe pain – a subjective standard which I believe has been abused exponentially. In 2010, 35%of the cards were issued by one doctor, 59% of the cards were issued by 10 doctors. The OMMP permits each card holder, or their caregiver, to legally possess 24 marijuana plants and 24 ounces of dried marijuana. In Washington County there are over 4,000 card holders. That means in Washington County in excess of 96,000 plants can be grown legally and over three tons of dried marijuana can be possessed legally.

Why is that important to you? Because being awash in marijuana in Washington County is a direct threat to our safety and our future. Drug distribution investigations increasingly lead to OMMP card holders who grow and sell for profit, like any other drug dealer. In many cases OMMP camouflaged drug dealers tell police what we see and know to be true – it’s all about the money. These dealers flood our communities and schools with marijuana and help de-stigmatize its use among our kids, which breaks down barriers to other drug use.

There is such an excess of local supply that investigators are seizing large amounts of OMMP marijuana, and cash, in states like Texas, Florida and Arkansas, according to the US Attorney’s Office. In 2010 marijuana was the leading drug cited among primary drug treatment admissions in Oregon. The newest threats to our communities are drug dealing businesses that sell marijuana and call themselves cafes and cooperatives – patently illegal under federal and Oregon law. Oregon voted “no” on these businesses, yet they are appearing in Washington County, blatantly indifferent and offensive to the will of Oregon voters. Investigations by Washington County’s Westside Interagency Narcotics (WIN) Team shut several down in Washington County. I will aggressively work to ensure this new supply of drugs receives the police attention it deserves as a threat to our kids and community at large. OMMP needs reform – I will work to that end.

Jail Expansion

In five to 10 years it’s likely our only jail in the county will need to expand. It was only in 2005 that we had to release over 4,000 offenders early (in the course of the year) because our 572 bed jail was too small to meet the demand. The Sheriff’s Office joined the District Attorney’s Office, Public Defenders Office, the Circuit Court, Community Corrections and Washington County and worked together on innovative programs to better manage our custody beds. Programs like Early Case Resolution, Drug Court, Needs Based Sentencing, and Mental Health Court helped stem the tide of forced releases from jail. However, the need to expand the jail will come as time passes and the county grows. It is my priority to work together with our partners to squeeze every ounce of efficiency out of all custody beds in the county before we build additional capacity. At the same time, we will carefully plan so that our county will be well served into the future by eventual expansion, and include our voters in planning discussions when the time comes.

Closing

The Sheriff is your only direct representative to law enforcement. The choice of who serves as sheriff is rightfully yours to decide. I have worked all my professional life to make myself worthy of your consideration. From my first day at the Sheriff’s Office in 1988 I continue to be honored to serve you, alongside the great men and women at the Washington County Sheriff’s Office.