From: Paul Pastor – Pierce County Sheriff
We recently held our Sheriff’s Department Awards Ceremony for 2015 honoring those who have performed with special distinction over the past year. We honored 69 of our employees for valor, for life saving and for meritorious actions on behalf of the community. We also honored six citizens for their actions in helping us improve our community.
I addressed the more than two hundred people gathered for that ceremony and I posed three questions about the Sheriff’s Department: Who are we? What do we stand for? Where are we going?
First, who are we? We are among the most independent, proud, dedicated, strong, decent, skilled, humble and bull-headed people you will ever meet. We have to be those things to do the work we are given to do.
So what do we stand for? We stand for the idea that there is a real difference between right and wrong. We stand for the idea that by our actions, we can be larger than our own lives and put the interests and well-being of others ahead of our own.
We stand for the idea that ordinary people like ourselves can take on the extraordinary mission of doing justice and undoing injustice.
Where are we going? We are going to build a larger, stronger, more values-led, toughminded, compassionate, squared-away, regional full-service law enforcement agency.
We are going to look our citizens in the eye and work to balance their expectations and our capacity to meet those expectations. That won’t be easy.
We are going to get beyond the difficulties facing law enforcement in America today. We will do it by engaging the people of Pierce County and further building trust.
But we are also going to need to challenge the people of Pierce County. We need to challenge them to recognize that trust is a two way street.
We need to demonstrate that those of us in the difficult and sensitive and sometimes dangerous field of law enforcement, have many obligations to the community. We need to constantly show that we take those many obligations very seriously.
But at the same time, it is important that citizens also realize that they have some very real obligations to us.
We have all been approached by citizens who say “thank you for your service” or “you have a tough job.” I appreciate the sincerity of those comments. But expressions of appreciation are ultimately not what we really need. We really need citizens who are willing to dig deeper to understand the challenges we face.
We need citizens who take time to understand the laws and policies – such as state mental health cuts – which complicate our work and threaten community safety.
We need citizens to appreciate the ethical complexity of our work. That appreciation should take the form of matching high expectations with equally high levels of co-operation. That won’t be easy.
We need to make citizens aware that we cannot provide more and more services. Why? Field force staff reductions put us at the same deputy to citizen ratio we had in 1985. Why? There are now more inmates per corrections deputy in our jail than ever before.
We need citizens to consider the expectations which they have for our services and then see that we have the resources to take action to meet those expectations. That won’t be easy.
We are going to work to educate and to communicate with the community as never before. We need to listen carefully to what the public has to say. And we need them to be aware of what we need in order to work effectively on their behalf.
Times are difficult. There are many issues which need to be addressed in post-recession Pierce County. But the priorities we set and the actions we take in difficult times are important because in difficult times, the right actions can have the most profound impact.
This is a difficult time and an important time. It is a time for us to listen but also a time for us to be heard. In a difficult time – in an important time – people in this agency stand up to difficulties. We applaud and we continue to support those whose actions represent the best of who we are and what we stand for and whose actions take us to where we need to go.