The Sheriff showed up at the meeting.  The Jul 14 meeting of Kingston North Kitsap Rotary Club.  No.  It was not Sheriff Longmire, to the regret of some.  And to this reporter’s knowledge there were no criminal activity arrests.  

    The Sheriff’s purpose was to advise the Club on matters relating to Kitsap County’s Sheriff’s operations.  John Gese spoke to the members.  For many years, he has been  Undersheriff.  That was until Sheriff Gary Simpson retired Jun 30, when the Undersheriff became Acting Sheriff, too.  Got it?  Sheriff Gese was among friends and familiar Rotary protocols.  He, too, is a Rotarian, a member of the Port Orchard Club.  

    Kitsap County’s Sheriff’s budget of $43m accounts for 40% of the County general fund, according to Gese.  There are 252 employees, 124 of which are commissioned, and 100 serve in corrections.  They serve 171k residents of Kitsap County.  Only a fraction of one percent of 2020 calls for help resulted in Sheriff’s Department use of force.  138 cases.  80k calls.  12k calls resulted in case reports; there were 3500 arrests.  

    Gese told Rotarians Covid-19 had a “tremendous impact” on Sheriff Department operations.  All pro-active activity was slowed down, including traffic enforcement.  There were worries of Covid outbreaks in the jail population, resulting in release of may low-level offenders.  The County Court system was shut down.  Recovery has been slow.

    The George Floyd murder in 2020 has resulted in criminal and justice reform in the U.S. and here in Kitsap County, according to Gese. As a result of peaceful protests throughout our community, the Department has worked at building relationships and communication, with little-known followup to the protests and media attention.  “We want to be a progressive agency, inclusive and responsive to our community needs.”  

    The 2021 Washington Legislative session brought many changes to how policing is done in Washington State.  At least thirteen major pieces of legislation were passed, affecting all areas of policing, including use of force, pursuits, hiring/firing, data collection, police interviews, and more.  Many of these new policies require training, policy development, new approaches to police work, and how and what type of calls police respond to. Some have unknown impact, and there will be a struggle to interpret the intent, perhaps with unintended consequences, Gese told Rotarians.

    During the Q&A session, the Sherrif was asked what scares him the most.  “We have been hiring, and hiring good, qualified folks, Gese said, “but I always worry about the 21-year old deputy, on patrol, even with the best training we can give them.”