Jeff Asher has been with the San Juan County Sheriff's Office for more than three decades and has many ideas of how things can be improved. Including providing Reserve Offices and a Community Service Officer to free up deputies to respond to calls. After midnight there is just one deputy on duty on San Juan Island. And after 2 or 3 a.m. there is no one on duty. (There is someone on call).
This lack of coverage leads to less DUI arrests and more danger for domestic violence victims.
In the past under Sheriff Bill Cumming and Ray Scheffer, Asher said, "In the 90s, they used senior deputies rather than supervisors. Everybody pulled their load...And know we are top heavy with supervisors."
Asher would increase the ability of the Sheriff's Office to respond to the citizens by creating a Reserve Officer program. Most likely, the reserves would be former law enforcement officers. The program would be volunteer with a stipend paid for the hours worked, similar to the way the EMTs work. Asher anticipates a Reserve Program of 13 officers each working 24 hours a month at a cost of $25 an hour. The other expense would be the purchase of four vehicles - one for each island. This could be done most cost effectively through the federal 1033 program.
A Reserve Officer Training Academy could be conducted through Skagit Valley College or through the Sheriff's Office. The curriculum material is already available. There are three specific subject areas that need to be taught by experts - firearms training, hand to hand combat, and emergency vehicle operations. Two of those could be taught on San Juan Island. The driving one would need to be done on the mainland.
By having Reserve Offficers who could respond to some of the less serious calls, it would free up deputies to take care of the more serious calls and to conduct investigations.
Another way to make more efficient use of the deputy's time would be by hiring a Community Service Officer. That involves 11 weeks of training and the pay for a CSO is significantly less than the $140,000 (which includes benefits) that it costs for a deputy.
"They are the Swiss Army Knife of employees," Asher said. They can take fingerprints, take reports, work with victims, etc.
Asher doesn't like the fact that the county uses Yakima County Jail. "It is the worst of the worst," he said. Families can't visit and it's "gangland".
As for drugs, Asher believes much more needs to be done to help addicts kick their habits. He also believes the Sheriff's Office could respond more promptly when people report illegal drug sales, if the staffing model he proposes was put in place.
Other ideas he has include holding regular staff meetings, creating a citizen advisory committee, starting a non-profit that supports the Sheriff's Office, creating a Youth Explorer Program, and creating a formalized standard background check process. The process would be fully documented and thorough.
More about Asher including his endorsements can be read on his website https://www.jeffasherforsheriff.com/.