I’m coming before you today as a member and president of the Thurston County Deputy Sheriff Association.
Our association is comprised of commissioned Deputies, Sgt’s, Lt’s and civilian legal assistants and other civilian roles. We, amongst many other, law enforcement officers and agencies, here in Thurston County and throughout the state have had to survive and adapt to an onslaught of new laws, public scrutiny, and much like everyone else, COVID, over the last two years. There is no arguing that the landscape for law enforcement in this state and county has been forever changed by new legislation and we are not ignorant to the fact that you as commissioners have no direct impact in being able to dictate or change that.
Where we do believe you have the ability to help aid, not only our members but other law enforcement officers and partners in this county, is in our TCSO Jail. Specifically, in allowing us to book offenders on probable cause charges and warrants. Our members have done outstanding work in finding ways to still be proactive and productive in their daily duties in attempting to locate criminals and prevent criminal acts from occurring. However, when we do find those responsible for crimes against our citizens and their property, and those that have abstained and ran from accountability of their alleged or convicted actions, my members abilities to help, prevent and protect our citizens from these individuals, is comprised when we can not place them into a correctional facility. There are a number of offenses that we can book people into our jail on, however, some of those are mandated by state law, such as DV crimes or other extremely violent felonies.
It's no secret that some of the unintended consequences of the new legislative measures have aided in increasing crime rates, and more specifically to property crimes. Its extremely frustrating when you are able to have done your job, located somebody stealing or vandalizing another persons property, to include vehicles and homes, have your hands on them, and then just refer the charge to the prosecutors office or provide them with a criminal citation and release them. This causes an issue when you release them and then the next day or sometimes even the next hour, they are down the street doing the exact same thing again and victimizing another community member. How many crimes, injuries and damage or theft of other peoples property could this county have prevented from occurring, had we been allowed to place offenders in jail for the first alleged crime?
This also sheds light to another issue were facing which is suspects being released on bail and personal recognizance. It's my opinion that our Judge’s are providing low bail amounts and releasing more people on their own personal recognizance than before, which is directly impacting the safety that we can provide to citizens in this county. Our association is already struggling to safely staff TCSO’s patrol division and that is then compounded more so, when the people that did commit a crime that met the booking criteria, are then let out the next day and are committing crimes, sometimes even more serious than the ones before, all over again. It's a never ending cycle and taxing mentally, physically and emotionally on our members and citizens. For example, we recently had a suspect arrested for Unlawful Possession of a Firearm. Currently, this is not a bookable offense in and of itself even though it's a felony, due to it not being a violent crime, but in my experience, has a strong likelihood of turning into one soon. This suspect, however was booked on this offense in addition to others and then was out very soon after. It is then alleged, the same suspect was in possession of another firearm some days later and using that gun in an attempt to commit a burglary on an occupied home where the residents were assaulted by this same suspect causing injury. We can’t prevent every criminal from bailing out of jail prior to their trial, nor should we, but we should not be making it as simple as opening the door and letting these criminals out. I believe the increase in PR releases, is a direct result in the Jails limited capacity which is due to the strict COVID protocols that are in place due to our County Board of Health.
Lewis County Jail currently has no restrictions for booking inmates due to Covid. I attempted to get in touch with Mason and Pierce today but was unable to reach anyone. I know that Chehalis and Nisqually are currently accepting prisoners, but they fall outside those state protocols due to being tribal agencies. However, I also learned that SCORE jail in King County is also accepting people and have no COVID protocols impacting their booking either.
If our current jail protocols at our jail are being driven by [Thurston County Health Officer] Dr. Abdelmalek and the County Board of Health, which is going off protocols and guidance provided by our Governors office, then why do other local and regional jail facilities, outside of tribal agencies, not have to abide by the same protocols from the Governors office? Lewis County does have less population, but if our county considers our Jail to be a “congregate care facility” due to Inslee and his guidance, why are other counties not considering their jails to be the same and are figuring it out on how to place people in their facilities when they are believed or alleged to have committed crimes or have confirmed warrants. Even the Olympia Police Department, who was notorious for never confirming on their warrants, is taking people for warrants. I transported someone to jail for a warrant the other day that was from as far back as 2014. I spoke with a Chief of Police in King County today who advised that the King County jail has no COVID booking protocols in place, but did recently shut down booking twice in the last month due to not having the staffing to accept new inmates, but that was outside of COVID and strictly just staffing issues.
This association is pleading with you on behalf of, not only the citizens in our county, but other law enforcement agencies in our county, to open up our jail to operate at its fullest capacity. It’s the expectation from the community to us, to prevent and solve crime and hold those accountable. It's our expectation from you, that you help us do that to the best of our abilities. This decision to continue the restrictions is hindering public safety and public trust in our ability to protect them from offenders and placing citizens in dangerous situations where they are now trying to protect themselves from these suspects. Citizens feel the need to do this because they feel we as law enforcement officers can't do that for them anymore, which is tragic. I urge you to have that conversation with Dr. A, our courts and our Sheriff, to find a way to increase public safety in this area.
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