Pacific County Sheriff visits Bay Center

The Bay Center Association was excited to have Pacific County Sheriff, Scott Johnson come May 28 to Bay Center to discuss several issues concerning our community and country. There was a good turn out and we were able to ask questions throughout his talk. He brought Undersheriff, Todd Fosse; Lieutenant, Jim Bergstrom and Commissioner Steve Rogers.

He said we are all his bosses; he works for us. The Sheriff’s department is hurting for dollars because of the turn down in the economy. They have had to economize, but at the same time have found ways to expand services. Cowlitz County donated a boat to the Pacific County Sheriff’s Department and we now have a marine patrol to help people in the water. They just participated in their first marine emergency.

There are 46 people on staff right now. They have no secretaries, they type every report themselves. They have an injured deputy right now, so they have one deputy for the North County. When the injured man comes back there will be two. Commissioners found funds in a road fund to support six or seven people. Sheriff Johnson has applied for a grant to augment the budget.

They get approximately 8,000 calls a year. They investigate about 35 break-ins a month. Almost all burglaries are tied into narcotics. Two Pacific County cities donated $10,000 each toward the narcotics task force. An historic new approach to sharing work with certain other counties in Washington and Oregon allowed them to participate in a big takedown on the Oregon Coast in Cowlitz County recently. And Sheriff, Robin Souvenir, from Tokeland, has responded when they needed help.

The Sheriff’s office operates the Emergency Department. Every 911 call goes to South Bend including Raymond Fire. There are 12 people employed for fielding calls 24 hours a day. They received 22,000 emergency calls last year. Stephanie Fritz is the supervisor. The Emergency Department employees plan in case of community emergencies, give talks, they are on Twitter and allowing another way to communicate with people. Send a message if you think something needs reporting. They are working on a phone service to do mass dialing for emergency awareness. If a person can’t use a phone, a neighbor can be asked to alert them.

One person is always in the Sheriff’s office to keep it open and do reports. The 4.4 million dollar budget allows a part time evidence tech. The Civil Department of the Sheriff’s office actually sells houses that have been foreclosed on.

Johnson runs the small jail built in 1984 to house 12 people and has found a way to house up to 45 to 55 people who need to be in jail. He would like to see the old 1911 jail fixed up; he could use its six cells. Ninety-five percent of the food for the jail is ordered locally. They have been able to feed all these people on the lower budget. Inmates give compliments on the jail cooking.

There has been an increase in violence. The Sheriff’s Department. has a high rate of solving crime. Big cities ask you to go on line to fill out paperwork, but here, they respond at all times. They are always busy but prioritize calls. If the victim has digital photos or video of the contents of their house and drawers it helps. In repeat instances, they have used motion detector cameras to catch sex offenders peeking in windows. There are about 100 registered sex offenders in Pacific County. Deputy, Ron Clark checks on them.

Johnson would like to see more volunteers for the Search and Rescue Unit, they can be very valuable. Not everyone can meet the requirements. The canine unit operates with two dogs on a $3,000 budget mainly through donations. One dog is to find missing persons, the other is a drug dog. Their handlers are with them 24 hours a day and are continually training them. It is amazing how quickly they can find things.

Donations can be made at the Sheriff’s office.

Johnson just completed a two day training session at Naselle School using school staff and kids, costing $30,000. They now have 55 people, trained in schools

As far as the proposed Raymond marijuana grow, the Sheriff’s’s Department will uphold the law. The warehouse may not qualify for such purposes because of a nearby school bus stop. He predicts we will see a lot of changes in the next few months. They have never had a lot of contact with pot. They teach kids what happens if you use drugs. They are seeing mainly meth and heroin use. Only 3 to 4 percent of heroin users ever get off of it.

They are dealing with a lot of people with mental health issues. In the old days, those individuals were sent to Western Washington State Facility. State beds have closed down and the state is forcing the Sheriff’s office to keep them in jail. Deputies spend a lot of time at the hospital with individuals with mental issues to get drugs to calm them down.

The county is going to deal with the $12,000 damage done at Bruceport Park by keeping it open year round with a caretaker.

They are now working with a lot of other agencies and strategizing to make all offices work together efficiently.

We really appreciated and enjoyed the opportunity to meet Sheriff, Scott Johnson and his staff.

Ed Whitord is the president of the Bay Center Association.