Terry Lawson formally announces his candidacy for Sheriff of Coconino County.
We need to enhance inter-agency cooperation and collaboration regarding the issues facing the future of public safety agencies within Coconino County. We must work, as stakeholders in our system, to better coordinate the services we provide to the citizens of this community. These professional services include Law Enforcement agencies, Municipal and Rural Fire Departments, Emergency Medical Services and all the support entities that provide vital services to these agencies and the public.
This community deserves an enhanced system of justice via the Courts and services we, as taxpayers, subsidize. Coconino County has the ability to be a model Criminal Justice system, however, it will take a great deal of collaboration and communication to effect the positive changes required to streamline the criminal justice process. We need more effective management and disposition of criminal cases, in a timely manner, at all levels of the system. Currently, there exists very limited resources to administer counseling and rehabilitative services or provide for alternative case dispositions, such as probation and community service. We have to address these issues with a progressive model to effect positive outcomes in these cases.
The system of revolving door justice must be corrected and a process to aggressively deal with repeat offenders must be pursued. Repetitive, and often violent criminals continue to plague our community with little or no effective intervention strategy in place. These criminals deal drugs on our streets, hold power through intimidation and threats and have no fear of reprisal by our system of justice. Once identified, these criminals need to be dealt with in an effective, assertive manner, through aggressive prosecution and heavy sentences through our courts. We must develop a Repeat Offender Program, perpetuating the tactics employed in other communities, to address this pervasive public safety problem.
We need to bolster the work and support the efforts of our METRO multi-agency task force, a team currently understaffed and overworked. This unit has a record of effectiveness that should be emulated and is the most effective resource currently in place at interdicting violent street crime and the people who manufacture and sell drugs in our neighborhoods. Through the interdiction activities of this unit, we have been successful at applying effective consequences to the perpetrators of violent and drug related crimes including sanctions that crush their criminal enterprises, seize their assets and effectively take them off our streets for long periods of time. The Sheriff’s Office currently has no personnel assigned to support this invaluable unit and this situation must be corrected immediately.
We must work to improve cooperation among other governmental agencies, which hold legitimate jurisdiction within our County including the Federal Bureau of Investigation, U.S. Forest Service, National Park Service and the Tribal Law Enforcement organizations of the Navajo, Hopi and Havasupai governments. These enterprises could include regular briefings and consultations among agencies, sharing of resources and information, cross-training and improved mutual aid agreements. Each of these organizations has their individual and unique issues to address and the Sheriff’s Office must be a more responsive and supportive public safety partner.
The management of warrants must be effectively addressed and a strategy for pursuing offenders implemented. We currently hold a huge backlog of nearly 10,000 warrants in our system, for a variety of offenses. Flagstaff Municipal Court assigns two warrants officers to pursue offenders, however, there exists no coordinated warrant task force or enforcement effort within our local Law Enforcement agencies. We are not out there actively looking for these offenders or holding them accountable for their crimes. These people are being let off the hook from paying fines, serving sentences, or completing community service after being sentenced by our courts. Many of these offenders fail to appear for their court hearings and the only method to hold them accountable is the chance they might have a future police contact that reveals their warrant. We need a more assertive, coordinated warrant interdiction strategy that tracks these people down and makes them accountable for their offenses.
Your Sheriff’s Office needs to reinstate the Domestic Violence investigative unit that has been dismantled due to a lack of internal support and resources. This investigative team managed more than 300 cases of domestic violence per year prior to being cut and was credited with prosecuting several serial, violent offenders during its tenure. We need to have a continued focus on the issue of Domestic Violence in this community and a coordinated effort with the service providers who support the victims of these violent crimes.
We must attempt to identify and allocate resources geared toward gang intervention in our neighborhoods. Our state funded task force has been dismantled and the problems associated with the proliferation of violent street gangs will go unchecked. The consequences of leaving this important mission unfulfilled are immense.
Our Law Enforcement agencies must work in a more productive and close collaboration with our Probation department to identify problem offenders and hold them accountable. There needs to be improved communication between our agencies, a task force oriented approach and a sharing of resources to manage convicted offenders. The Probation department has been grossly neglected over the years and we must be better at helping our Probation Officers do their important job more effectively.top