By Bill Elfo, county sheriff
Thank you, northern Whatcom County for your support of the sheriff’s office! We appreciate your partnering with us on many fronts to keep our community safe. The level of communication that exists between community members and the neighborhood deputy have yielded many positive results.
One of the challenges confronting our community is an increase in the number of persons with serious and dangerous forms of untreated mental health issues. Often these conditions are aggravated by drug abuse. The sheriff’s office has trained all deputies in crisis intervention. A highly trained crisis negotiation team responds to defuse the most dangerous and imminent threats.
A goal of the sheriff’s office is to attempt intervention prior to people being arrested and entering the criminal justice system. A law enforcement assisted diversion (LEAD) program was established in late 2018. LEAD deputies will use existing behavioral health services and leverage the increased capacity for mental health and substance abuse services that are anticipated to be available in 2019. This should help make our community safer and result in a wiser use of resources.
Resources in the east county will be expanded in 2018 and should reduce the frequency with which the Birch Bay deputy is called to respond to matters outside of his assigned area.
Capacity and conditions within the downtown jail continue to create challenges. The county facilities department which oversees the infrastructure is planning some major modifications to extend the life-cycle of the building and improve safety and security. This includes replacing all cell doors, improving fire safety systems and increasing our ability to monitor inmates. The sheriff’s office also acquired body and mail scanners to help prevent narcotics and other contraband from being smuggled into the jail.
On behalf of our staff, Merry Christmas and Happy New Year.