PORT TOWNSEND — Candidates for Jefferson County sheriff shared their views on policing and the role of the department in the community during a League of Women Voters forum last week.
Incumbent Sheriff Joe Nole is a 32-year veteran of the department elected in 2018 and his challenger, Art Frank, has been a detective with the department since 2016, and was previously an officer with the Glendale Police Department in Southern California. Both candidates are Democrats.
Primary elections are set for Aug. 2, and election ballots have already been sent out to voters. Both candidates also will be listed on the Nov. 8 general election ballot.
Candidates were asked about their views on the role of policing, budget priorities and immigration policies during a virtual forum for the Jefferson County Sheriff’s Office (JCSO) on July 12.
Frank didn’t directly criticize his opponent but said a change in leadership was needed at the department.
“In a time of rising public concern about property crime, drug abuse, mental health, homelessness, and school safety, JCSO has sat still and turned inward,” Frank said.
“We deserve better need a leader who will update and professionalize JCSO innovating to enable local deputies to protect our county’s residents and business more effectively.”
Nole said he believed shortcomings in our society have a direct impact on things like mental health, homelessness and drug abuse, and that it was the role of the sheriff’s office to address those concerns.
“Community policing is something that’s important to me, and I strongly believe in it, and I practice it throughout my career,” Nole said.
“To me, it means creating a network of relationships and trust between the staff and all kinds of people means returning phone calls and checking in on people and reaching out to people.”
Candidates were asked about immigration issues. Both Frank and Nole said they believed it was not the role of the sheriff’s office to work with federal authorities on such issues. Moderator Angela Gyurko said during the forum that the issue of the sheriff’s office enforcing immigration laws was “emphasized multiple times” in questions from the public.
“My opinion of our responsibility when enforcing immigration laws is, we don’t have any,” Frank said.
“It needs to be common knowledge that we do not cooperate with federal authorities in the application and administration of immigration law. That’s a job for the federal government. That’s what they get paid for. That’s what’s in their budget.”
Nole made similar statements, saying that in his first weeks as sheriff, he ended an information-gathering agreement with the U.S. Customs and Border Patrol.
“If there are any immigrants that are out there listening, my deputies know my thoughts on this and I know I just can’t say ‘trust us, we’re friends,’ but like I said, my phone, my door is always open if you want to come, talk or send me an email or something,” Nole said.
”If you have concerns, please let me know because I don’t want to have anyone in our community who’s scared of law enforcement, especially the sheriff’s office.”
Both candidates also said they would refuse to work with law enforcement from other states that might be seeking information on women who’ve traveled to Washington state seeking an abortion.
“My gut reaction is is heck no, we won’t have anything to do with that,” Nole said.
Barring a change in state law, Frank said in those cases the sheriff’s office would have no law to enforce.
Though the candidates were in agreement on most issues, Frank was critical of what he called a “reactionary status quo that has proven unable to address (the public’s) most pressing needs.”
Nole cited his long tenure in Jefferson County and said employee morale at the department had increased under his leadership.
Video of the forum can be found at the Jefferson County LWV webpage, lwvwa.org/Jefferson.
Reporter Peter Segall can be reached at [email protected]