Interview with sheriff candidate Sgt. Tom Cooper

Lachlan Johnson

How should the Sheriff’s Office interact with the Whitman community?

Photo contributed by Tom Cooper.
Photo contributed by Tom Cooper.

“[The Sheriff’s Office] should act in concert with the Walla Walla Police Department to do everything that’s possible to make sure that the Whitman experience … is as positive of an experience as possible. The police department does a good job, but the Sheriff’s office, as the number one back-up agency [to the police], is important … Indirectly, [the Sheriff’s Office can be] a sounding board or be available to answer questions, or to respond and help with any issues which could come up.”

How has the legalization of marijuana impacted the Sheriff’s Office?

“I don’t think we have seen, nor will we see for a little while, the full impact of the legalization of marijuana. I think that the [largest] way that it’s going to affect the Sheriff’s office in the short term … is the driving issues. We have the DUIs right now with liquor and other intoxicants. It’s going to be much more of a challenge [for officers] to be able to recognize when someone is in error [due to marijuana use], and that’s actually going to be pretty costly [to train people to detect].”

What could the Sheriff’s Office do to better prevent and investigate sexual assault on college campuses?

“Right now, a lot of the jurisdictions –– at least the local ones –– their resources are pretty well tapped. The most important thing the Sheriff’s office could do is make sure we’re utilizing our resources and our money to the fullest. If we have some fluff in our budget somewhere –– and I think that we do –– we should streamline that to make money available to address issues such as sexual assaults on campus. I think the best way to do that is to work in conjunction with the school, work in conjunction with other law-enforcement agencies, and make sure we’re acting in a proactive and preventative way…

“If we’re wasting money, we’re not utilizing it to the fullest. That’s key. And if we have the money to target that type of an issue, we all win … The number one thing I’m concerned about is to provide the leadership role to make sure we’re using our money and resources to the fullest.”

Should law enforcement offices such as the Sheriff be an elected position?

Photo by Hayley Turner.
Photo by Hayley Turner.

“To an extent, I think it’s problematic that … the Sheriff’s position in Washington state is decided by popular vote, because it turns into a popularity contest … It would be [better] if it were like the chief police, where there’s a huge vetting process, a huge interview process and qualification process, and there isn’t going to be any wool being pulled over anybody’s eyes and it isn’t going to be a popularity contest of who can raise the most money. It’s going to be the most qualified person for this community, who will keep the community safe.”

How do you feel about campaign donations for law enforcement offices?

“My opponent has outdone me in the area of campaign financing by a margin of two to one. I don’t bother people for money or donations. If they feel compelled because they think there should be a change, then I welcome the donation.”