Sharon’s Public Safety Plan
“When I need help in Olympia, I call Sharon. She’s a strong supporter of public safety and justice and she delivers for Whatcom County. Sharon works with me on laws that improve justice for everyone, while saving us money in the long run. Vote Sharon!”
— Eric Richey, Whatcom County Prosecutor
Developing a Public Safety Plan
Over the last year, I have been meeting with Whatcom County officials to develop a public safety plan that works for us and addresses your safety concerns. I’m proud that this plan has broad support.
Everyone deserves to feel safe in their community. Everyone. Effective public safety comes with consequences for breaking laws, provides rehabilitation services where possible, and prevents crime before it even starts.
The truth is that crime is up across the US, in blue states and in red states, in states with new policing laws and states like Texas without new laws. My priority is Whatcom County. That’s why I’ve been talking with local leaders in all sectors of our justice system to understand how we make sure our communities here at home are safe. Making justice political or partisan, as my opponent is doing, benefits nobody. My goal is to keep you safe—and we do that by talking to experts, examining the data, and then working in a bipartisan manner on solutions to make you safer.
We cannot allow public safety to be about partisan politics—we have to put people first and focus on solutions that put safety and evidence-based approaches to reducing crime first.
Safe whatcom for all
1. Good people doing difficult work.
That means well-trained and appropriately staffed corrections and law enforcement departments and more behavioral health professionals. I propose:
- A statewide recruiting effort for the next generation of corrections, law enforcement and behavioral health staff. This effort will recruit people from all walks of life and communities to find the helpers who may never have seen themselves working in a jail, a patrol car or as a social worker.
- Pension reform for corrections officers.
- Regional training academies for law enforcement so new officers do not need to spend six months or more away from their families while training.
- Continued support for behavioral health training and adequate salaries and benefits for behavioral health professionals to prevent burn-out.
2. Places that reduce criminality and recidivism, treat those affected by mental illness, and help people safely re-enter the community where possible.
Nearly everyone leaves jail at some point. A safe and effective jail means it’s safe for the people who work there and the people who serve their time. For the latter, it means they are less likely to return and can start a productive life. I support a new jail with behavioral health investments and will secure state funding to help the county build public safety buildings for:
- Mental health facilities at the scale we need, including secure and not secure facilities to tackle the diverse mental health needs of our community.
- A sobering center for people who are driving while intoxicated, recovering from an opioid overdose or just need a safe place to start their recovery. There are successful examples from other counties where vans pick intoxicated people up off the streets, which is safer for them and the wider community. This is a low-cost alternative that will divert people from more expensive options such as the Emergency Room or jail and will save lives.
- A secure detox facility.
- Ensuring the new jail has adequate support for mental health evaluations, medication and case management.
- Supported transitional housing with wrap-around services to help people become part of the community again.
3. Get our court system back on track.
Covid led to long delays in courts and this led to a lack of consequences for law breakers.
We need to get back on track now with a court system that delivers swift, certain, and fair consequences with justice for victims and defendants when laws are broken. I will fill in gaps to:
- Fund positions at Western State Hospital and explore options to do out-patient competency evaluations to create faster competency evaluations and restorations.
- Work with state and county governments, as well as the public defenders and prosecutors to create more efficient diversion into mental health court, including identifying people eligible for mental health court earlier in the process.
- Creating a grant program for collaborative programs like Partners in Justice that improve outcomes and reduce costs.
- Fully funding the Mental Health Sentencing Alternatives (Department of Corrections program) that was legislated without funding.
- Adequate resources and increased capacity for all levels of the court by asking the Administrative Office of the Courts to perform a workload study to identify opportunities to make our courts more efficient.
4. Ending homelessness in Whatcom County.
Many people feel unsafe when others are sleeping on the streets or using drugs in public spaces. Most homeless people do not commit crimes; in fact, many are often the victims of crime and they deserve to feel safe. Everyone should have a safe place to sleep at night. I will:
- Continue to support innovative collaborations like The Way Station.
- Supportive housing for people at all levels of recovery.
- Adequate shelter capacity for women, families, youth.
- Fix our broken housing market to reduce the rate of increase we are seeing in our housing markets and get us to a healthy vacancy rate. While solving homelessness will require more than just housing policy, we cannot solve homelessness without addressing the supply of affordable housing.