Walla Walla County Sheriff race pins deputy against commanding officer

Walla Walla County Sheriff race pins deputy against commanding officer »Play Video
WALLA WALLA, Wash. -- The race for Walla Walla County Sheriff started out as two deputies running against their commanding officer. The primary took it down to one, leaving Deputy Tom cooper against Sheriff John Turner.

KEPR spoke with all three men, and no matter whom you voted for in August, all say come November you need to pick a side.

KEPR asked both men running against Sheriff John Turner, if they trust him. “I can't say that I trust Turner,” said Deputy Sgt. Barry Blackman. “No I don't trust Turner.” Deputy Sgt. Tom Cooper was quick to answer, “Absolutely not.”

Those are powerful words directed straight at their commanding officer. Both Tom Cooper and Barry Blackman say there's tension in the department. “I wouldn't say it's a little fractured,” said Cooper. “I would say it's completely fractured and that's leadership.

“I don't think the agency is fractured,” countered Sheriff John Turner. “I understand my opponent is unhappy, but I don't think the agency is fractured.” Sheriff Turner says this is the typical mudslinging he's been dealing with since he decided to run for a second term. “I know it's not the opinion of the department as a whole," he said.

As a whole, under Turner, Cooper and Blackman say the sheriff's office has changed. “Changing our agency into an urban sheriff’s office, instead of a rural sheriff office,” said Blackman. “Walla Walla County is a rural county."

Turner doesn't disagree, he knows he's made many changes and he says it’s because Walla Walla is changing. “We've taken best practices from lessons learned elsewhere around the state and implemented them and they've worked out great,” said Turner.

Turner's using practices that have now become standard for many departments, considered by some to be militaristic. They're new to Walla Walla.

“We're using SWAT teams where we never used to use them,” said Blackman. “His law enforcement is from big city Los Angeles Police Department and he seems to think that can fit in rural law enforcing like we’re doing around here," said Cooper.

“When you look at the kind and caliber of the bad guy that we’re combatting, they're becoming more sophisticated. They're using the internet, smart phones, doing things that they didn’t do in the past,” said Turner when asked if he is being too aggressive. These are things you need to do to stay on top of, so you don’t get run over by a criminal element. Sticking your head in the sand or doing things the way we used to do it isn’t sufficient."