The Sheriff’s Log

Sheriff Paul Pastor, July 16, 2014

Collaborate or Perish / Co-operate and Flourish

In 2008 with the change in County charter, the position of Sheriff became an elected office in Pierce County. I am convinced that there is real wisdom in having the people elect the Sheriff to represent the peoples’ interests in terms of safety and security and to protect rights.

But that advantage of independence needs to be tempered with a willingness to work with others for the common good: a willingness to collaborate with the public and with other organizations. While I am independent, I know that I need to collaborate and co-operate with other people and other agencies to get things accomplished.

Collaboration and co-operation are essential to move the public’s  usiness forward and to improve community safety. When things don’t get done in the public sector it is often due to an unwillingness to work together. Too often, people in positions of responsibility would rather posture than solve problems. They would rather make noise than make progress. This is not unique to one group or ideology. We see this on the national level and the results are not

“Collaborate or Perish” is the title of a book recently written by William Bratton, the Commissioner of NYPD under Mayor Rudy Guilianni and the new Commissioner under Mayor Bill DeBlasio. Bratton’s book describes how, in law enforcement and other government services, cooperation and collaboration are essential to moving things forward.

Just consider some of our greatest public safety accomplishments here in Pierce County and the role that collaboration has played.

The Sheriff’s Department’s collaboration with the public and the legislature and other agencies resulted in this County overcoming the terrible “methademic” of the late ‘90’s and early 2000’s. Our success in this area is regarded as a national model.

The Child Advocacy Center at Mary Bridge Hospital is built on a foundation of collaboration and co-operation between law enforcement, doctors, nurses, social workers, and Multicare.

This, too, is regarded as a national model.

Today, there is substantially less gang violence in Pierce County than in King County because of collaboration and communication and co-operation between agencies.

Finally, the recent funding initiative to establish a new 911 and emergency radio system is a major example of cooperation between local and county government and between law enforcement and fire/emergency medical services. We are well on our way to completing a system which is highly integrated, more effective and safer for the public and first responders.

I believe that we should work to further improve co-operation and collaboration in order to enhance public safety and achieve greater efficiencies. This is especially true as we emerge from the recession. Law enforcement (and for that matter government in general) needs to look for ways to combine resources and to de-silo and to reduce duplication.

We can’t be as efficient and effective as we need to be if we stay in our own cocoons. When we have achieved major successes, we did so by working together not by going it alone. Let’s consider other challenges we currently face. Let’s consider what we can and need to do.

Several challenges come to mind. The first is the jail. I believe that a safe, secure, accessible and Constitutional jail is essential to community safety and an effective justice system. It is time for the County and cities to recognize that we need to work together in the wider public interest and stop seeking to push the advantage of one jurisdiction at the expense of another.

This is why I have strongly advocated for consolidating jail services and returning to a workable contracting model which is mutually beneficial and equitable to all involved.

Failure to do this not only wastes public resources but also undermines criminal justice processing. It wastes the time of police officers and prosecutors and judges. In this and other areas, Pierce County needs to work in collaboration with cities to promote the wise and effective use of jail services and cities need to work closely and co-operatively with Pierce

County. I am meeting regularly with city police chiefs in order to accomplish this.

Over the next several years, the population of Pierce County will likely grow to over one million people. For the criminal justice system to serve this population, it will need to grow.

For this to happen properly, we need to find better ways to build collaboration and consolidation between jurisdictions and between individual agencies.

We need to reduce duplication and redundancy. We need solutions which forego narrow, short-term advantage. We need to focus on effectiveness and efficiency in the long term for the interests of everyone in the County. In the Sheriff’s Department, we are already using technology, data analysis as well as re-organization toward this end.

I believe that it is the role of the independently elected Sheriff to look beyond narrow interests and agendas. It is the role of the Sheriff to consider the big-picture interests of all the citizens of Pierce County in the area of safety and justice.

By increasing collaboration and co-operation and by combining efforts and resources, law enforcement, the jail and the entire justice system can evolve to become stronger, more effective, more just, and also more efficient.

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