Sheriff's Review 2008
Dear Citizens of Mason County,
In 2007 and 2008, the Mason County Sheriff’s Office in cooperation with the Mason County Commissioners has made considerable strides in enhancing public safety for the citizens of Mason County. We face some very daunting budgetary challenges for 2009 and beyond. Staff cuts appear to be necessary in order to balance the upcoming 2009 budget.
The Sheriff’s Office has given notice to: one animal control officer, one civil service paper process officer, and one evidence technician. Additionally, we have moved two deputies out of the general fund budget and are financing them from revenue received from the state boating safety fund and another on grant money from the State of Washington for sex offender tracking and management. These last two positions may not be continuously funded positions. As a result of these cuts, effectively, five patrol deputy positions will now be used to perform these duties, taking five patrol deputies off the streets of Mason County.
A survey completed by the citizens of Mason County prioritized the voiced concerns for elected officials to deal with. In an overwhelming response, the citizens said their first priority was public safety; Increasing the number of deputies in Mason County. A second concern of citizens was speeding vehicles and traffic problems. The third citizen priority was doing something about the drug issues occurring around us. Finally, citizens wanted the sheriff to deal with boating issues on our waterways.
So what has the sheriff’s office done for you regarding these issues?
First we began by filling the deputy positions that had been continuously left vacant. On October 21, 2008, the last two deputies hired, graduated from the Basic Law Enforcement Academy. This date marked the first time in nearly 30 years that the Mason County Sheriff’s Office has had a full staff, nearly reaching the national standard of one deputy per thousand residents.
Next, we worked in cooperation with our commissioners to form a fully functional traffic unit to patrol the county roadways. In 2007 we were informed that the Washington State Patrol would no longer handle county roadway incidences as a priority, beginning January 2009. I am proud to say that the traffic unit is now operational patrolling the roadways of Mason County. Since January, 2008, the traffic unit has responded to 212 traffic accidents, 203 traffic complaints, 6 fatality accidents, 54 injury accidents and 152 property damage accidents, issued 630 citations, and contacted approximately 1,890 persons. We're making a difference! Like no other time in Mason County. We are all safer because of the efforts of the traffic unit this year. On December 2, 2008, at a County Commission meeting, Washington State Patrol Chief John Batiste recognized the Mason County Sheriff’s Office, the traffic unit, and the Commissioners, for increasing traffic safety in Mason County.
The Drug problem:
The Mason County Sheriff’s Office formed the Special Operations Group (SOG) to combat the drug problem. The Special Operations Group was formed in 2008 with two full time MCSO Detectives, one cross commissioned Department of Corrections Fugitive Apprehension officer and one MCSO sergeant. In 2009 the SOG is anticipating adding one Squaxin Island Tribal Police officer to the unit. Since January 08, SOG personnel have made a total of 110 arrests in Mason, Kitsap, Pierce, Thurston and Grays Harbor Counties. 80% of those arrests occurred in Mason County. The other 20% included subjects involved in criminal activity in and around Mason County. The following is a summary of SOG’s activity:
52 DOC violators arrested.
50 Drug arrests (45 in Mason County, 2 Thurston, 3 Grays Harbor)
6 Warrant Arrests
1 Burglary Arrest
1 Undercover prostitution arrest, believed to be the first in Mason County.
Seizures and Recoveries / Street values:
$10,000 Pharmaceuticals including Methadone, Oxycodone, Oxycontin etc.
$500,000 Marijuana plants
$70,000 In processed marijuana
13 vehicles seized
Approx $2,000 in electronics, tools, machinery etc.
In addition the SOG unit participated in over twenty agency assists, search warrants, and counter drug operations. Most recently SOG worked in cooperation with our patrol division, the five regional Sheriff’s Offices and the US Marshall Service on “Operation Falcon” which led to the arrests of approximately 100 wanted felons, one of whom was a convicted murderer located in the Tahuya area of Mason County.
Narcotics K-9, Kona:
K-9 Kona made a total of 105 searches resulting in 128 narcotics finds. She conducted 75 vehicle searches, 7 out of county assists, 23 building searches, two area searches and five U.S. currency searches.
Thanks to the Special Operations Group, K-9 Kona and her chauffer, Deputy Dodge. For the first time in Mason County we are proactively seeking out manufacturers, dealers and traffickers of drugs and bringing these people to justice. The Mason County Sheriff’s Office is also aggressively seizing and forfeiting the profits and proceeds of drug sales to hurt the traffickers in their pocketbooks and offset our office’s costs for drug enforcement activities.
I have been asked from time to time, does the Mason County Sheriff’s Office really need a SWAT team? My answer is I don’t, you do!
Between June 1, 2007 and August, 2008, SWAT officers responded to at least four incidents involving hostages, armed barricaded suspects, and/or shots being fired. Additionally the SWAT team has participated in the service of very high risk warrants and fugitive apprehensions. The SWAT team is called upon to train deputies on tactical issues. They are routinely consulted by surrounding law enforcement agencies as subject matter experts on tactical safety issues including critical incident planning for schools, government buildings and tourist locations.
Search and Rescue:
This year we have revived and re-established Search and Rescue. Mason County ranks as 16th in the State of Washington for SAR events. This year Mason County Search and Rescue responded to 31 SAR related calls, expending approximately 530 staff hours for these calls. SAR calls for service included 13 search operations, 2 aircraft incidences, 2 rescue operations, and 14 missing and /or overdue persons.
It really is necessary that we have a full staff of deputies. In 2008, the Mason County Sheriff’s Office finally met the national standard of one deputy per one thousand people. Even though the Mason County Sheriff’s Office may exceed at least one of our neighboring counties in the number of deputies per thousand population, I consider that staffing level absolutely essential considering that Mason County rates in the top six for overall crime rates in the State and first among counties its size. When viewing counties of similar size, our crime rates are double the crime rates of those counties in both crimes against persons and property crimes. Since we have filled these deputy positions we have begun to slow these trends. Yes, it does seem necessary to have a full staff. It is also worth noting that Mason County is one of a few counties that has only one city police agency to assist with responses throughout the county. We are fortunate in having two tribal police departments in Mason County. I would also like to recognize our Tribal Law Enforcement colleagues: Squaxin Island Tribal Police and Skokomish Tribal Police for their effort and assistance in responding off the reservations in emergency situations.
However, if you live in North Mason County, you are solely dependent on the Sheriff’s Office response. How do cuts in staff make you feel?
So you hear the crime rate has been decreasing. I’m a little concerned with the bad economy as much as you are. My concern is that as the economy weakens crime rates after a while tend to rise significantly. How about violent crime and people acting out of desperation? For those of you who don’t know, our deputies have been involved in four officer involved shootings this year. Thankfully they are safe. Thank goodness they made the correct decisions. Thank goodness they are willing to stand between you and the bad guys. And thank God for Deputy Sheriffs and the work they do in Mason County.
One of those shooting incidents occurred in my neighborhood when I was not home. I was sure glad we had sufficient staff to respond. Special thanks to Deputy Matt Gray and Deputy Sean Dodge for a job well done and thanks for being there, taking care of my kids when I wasn’t home.
On December 5, we were notified by the County Commissioners we would have to trim yet another $150,000 from our budget. That means the elimination of an unfilled corrections officer position and the elimination of a deputy. Total personnel losses for the Sheriff’s Office will probably be one deputy, one corrections officer, one animal control officer, one civil process server, and one evidence officer. Remember the work left by laid off civilian employees will have to be done by the remaining deputies. That will reduce the amount of time deputies have to patrol the roads of Mason County.
The Mason County Commissioners by law have to balance the budget before January 1, 2009. With revenues declining they had to make some very difficult choices. They have ordered cuts in many county departments and offices to balance the budget for 2009.
The one thing I can assure you...
The Mason County Sheriff’s Office will be here for you, always doing the best that we can, with the resources we have been provided.
Thank you for your support.
Mason County Sheriff