A shortfall of funding and staffing at the Island County Sheriff’s Office is leading to a lack of crucial policy updates, security measures and long-term planning, according to a report released this week by the Washington Association of Sheriffs and Police Chiefs.
The voluntary review, sought by county’s Law and Justice Council to both improve the department and move closer toward accreditation, has been long in coming. Island County Sheriff Mark Brown had requested the assessment since he took office nine years ago, but budget constraints have prevented it.
Commissioner Rick Hannold, who serves on the Law and Justice Council, said the report reflected the issues he expected to see and said he was confident the sheriff and the Council would be able to address the issues listed.
A number of systematic and administrative problems were discovered by the review group and recommendations were issued.
Brown said that the review, while helpful, scrutinizes his small department as compared to large city police departments that have far more funding, staff and resources than Island County.
“The commissioners were always more concerned to have deputies, boots on the ground, than they were about administrative oversight,” Brown said. “That’s the model.”
As a result, assessors found that “the Island County Sheriff’s Office does not participate in structure or periodic long-term planning and is not operating under a strategic plan…” and that the agency “has not used an employee evaluation system in well over twenty years.” As a result, authentic feedback on a deputy’s performance is “non-existent.”
Assessors noted that staff members expressed concerns the office is in a “chronic state of change.” The recent loss of the chief corrections deputy and the undersheriff has not made the sheriff’s job any easier.
Undersheriff Kelly Mauck, whose last day way Sept. 10, was “tasked with an impressive number of operational responsibilities,” according to the report. These included updating the sheriff’s policy manual and supervising all three of the sheriff’s divisions: criminal, civil and corrections.
Mauck told assessors that “because of competing demands on his workload” he had not kept up recent policy updates and was two updates behind. There are “many important topics that are currently missing from the ICSO (Island County Sheriff’s Office) manual.”
Assessors recommended solutions for each issue, among them: conducting a staffing analysis; increasing administrative oversight and planning; and improving communication between divisions and precincts.
To address the issues in the short term, Brown said he has assembled a supervisory group that meets every other week to address administrative functions to ensure things run smoothly until additional staff can be hired. He will be seeking a handful of additional and replacement staff members in the upcoming budget cycle. Hannold said the commissioners are waiting for the latest jail report, due out in a couple of weeks, before discussing the sheriff’s staffing needs.
The sheriff’s office as a whole has been under increased scrutiny in recent months because a 25-year-old inmate died in an Island County jail due to neglect in April.
While the WASPC report focused mostly on reviewing the sheriff’s criminal and civil divisions, assessors commented that the corrections division “demonstrated full compliance and competence.”
“The challenge going forward is to maintain this level of engagement,” the report states.
Hannold said he found the positive marks for the jail very “reassuring.”
The review was performed by a branch of the WASPC known as the Loaned Executive Management Assistance Program, which taps a handful of Washington law enforcement agents to review a department as peers.