By Charlie Bermant
Peninsula Daily News
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“It’s important for us to build partnerships and coalitions within the county, especially considering our limited resources,” said Dave Stanko, 66, one of the two candidates vying for the office in the Nov. 4 general election.
“These are the kinds of partnerships we need to maintain and build upon,” said Wendy Davis, 47, about the connection between the two services.
The candidates spoke to about 20 people Tuesday night at the monthly meeting of the East Jefferson County Emergency Medical Services and Trauma Care Council, which includes representatives of five area fire districts along with Jefferson County Search and Rescue and Jefferson Healthcare hospital.
No members of the general public were present at the meeting at the Chimacum Fire Station. The meeting was not advertised aside from the standard legal notice.
While law enforcement representation on the council is required by the state, their presence at the meeting has been infrequent, according to Loni Harbison, secretary/treasurer.
This is something both candidates promised to correct.
“The Sheriff’s Office needs to be involved in the emergency community,” said Stanko, a retired lieutenant from the Fullerton Police Department in California.
“Not only the sheriff but the undersheriff — if that’s the way we choose to go — where other staff members and even deputies can show up to a meeting and bring the expectations or the needs of this group back to the undersheriff or the sheriff.”
The department does not now have an undersheriff.
Said Davis, who has worked for the Bremerton and Poulsbo police departments: “I’ve heard a resounding message that the sheriff’s department should be involved in places where they are not involved.
“It’s not just from this organization,” Davis added. “I’ve heard the same thing from the Dove House, and it’s very important that we have solid relationships with organizations in our community that are helping other people.”
The candidates talked for about 50 minutes in an unstructured format that more resembled an open discussion than a moderated forum.
Harbison said no political candidates had ever attended a council meeting and that the sheriff’s candidates were invited to secure law enforcement representation on the board.
There were no substantial disagreements between the candidates on the points discussed.
East Jefferson Fire-Rescue Chief Gordon Pomeroy said his department needs to interact with two different policing agencies, the Port Townsend Police Department and the Jefferson County Sheriff’s Office, and has received less guidance from the latter.
“We’ve worked together with the Port Townsend police to discuss bomb threats and potential shootings, but we haven’t had that kind of input from the county,” Pomeroy said.
Stanko advocated interagency training.
“Without training, you can’t react properly,” he said.
“Look at Ferguson, at Seattle University and all the tragic incidents we’ve had all the way back to Columbine,” he added.
“If you don’t have the training to respond to the incident, you may have to use deadly force.
“We need to get away from the militarization of law enforcement, which is a cultural change.”
Stanko said 98 percent of law enforcement is communication, describing the remaining 2 percent as “hands-on.”
Davis said she had worked in crisis-based training exercises, something she recommended for Jefferson County.
“Thank goodness we don’t have those incidents happen very frequently,” she said.
“We can look at incidences like Columbine and other situations and look at their lessons, but we are different.
“We are geographically different, we only have two law enforcement agencies, so we need to train and have scenarios like this.”
Quilcene Deputy Fire Chief Bob Moser said he’d like to conduct a training exercise at the Quilcene School and asked for the candidates’ support to do so.
“We have a lot of narcotics use, and my biggest fear is of a copycat shooting in the school,” Moser said.
“I have tried to set up a training period in the school,” he said.
Moser asked whether the candidates would commit to this training “even if you are going to have to pay overtime and it will cost you some money.”
“We will find a time because training is critical,” Stanko said.
“We need to provide the needed training that could be necessary for our dispatchers to stay on the job.”
Said Davis: “Training exercises can help us determine the deficiencies in our system and learn how we can make it better.
“We can’t learn our local lessons from somebody in Colorado and Arizona.
“Everything costs money, but we need to find the dollars to make it work.”
The two candidates are competing to replace Tony Hernandez, who quit to work as the Milton police chief. Chief Criminal Deputy Joe Noles is serving as interim sheriff until after the election.
Ballots for the Nov. 4 election will be mailed to voters Oct. 15.
Jefferson County Editor Charlie Bermant can be reached at 360-385-2335 or firstname.lastname@example.org.