“Seek first to understand, then to be understood.”
It is by that principle – originally attributed to the 13th century St. Francis of Assisi and more recently popularized by Stephen Covey's …
“Seek first to understand, then to be understood.”
It is by that principle – originally attributed to the 13th century St. Francis of Assisi and more recently popularized by Stephen Covey's "7 Habits of Highly Effective People" – that Sheriff Dave Stanko has carried out his 28-year career.
Stanko, who was elected sheriff by 269 votes in November 2014, said that same principle is guiding his early efforts to improve the department's community relations in Jefferson County.
“This is the way I've been doing law enforcement my whole career,” said the 66-year-old Stanko, who retired to Cape George 10 years ago following a police career in Fullerton, California. “We want to treat people the way you would treat your own mother.”
Upon his election, Stanko contacted his former boss from the Fullerton Police Department, Lee DeVore, who participated as a member of the Washington State Institute for Community Oriented Policing at Washington State University while serving as police chief in Twin Falls, Idaho.
Stanko invited DeVore to assess the extent of the Jefferson County Sheriff's Office's current use of community-oriented policing and make recommendations to help with greater implementation of such policing.
“I'm very pleased with this report,” Stanko said of the 40-page Community Policing Assessment Report released March 16, which he hopes can help guide his department to “lean away from the community's perception of militarization and toward a culture of courage and guardianship.
“The goal of this is to improve transparency between the department and the community,” he said of the report and how it will guide the department's implementation of community-oriented policing.
DeVore, now retired, and two others conducted more than 80 interviews Jan. 5-9, including most department employees and volunteers, county commissioners and other elected officials, school officials, residents, business leaders and civic organization leaders, among others.
The report recommended updates to the department's mission statement and development of a strategic plan and organizational changes. It suggests the sheriff give all deputies business cards and encourage involvement in community groups; expand the reserve deputy program and assign deputies to focus on geographic regions; hire more women; reward good work; try bicycle patrols in business areas; increase the scope and frequency of training; assess workload and improve communication among deputies; foster a culture of teamwork and encourage deputies to take chances in problem solving; draw volunteers from the county's senior population; and grow collaborative relations with schools and other groups.
Stanko said when he started, the department was already doing well in many of these areas, especially in collaborating with schools and tribes.
“I was pleased when I got here to find out we are more engaged with the community than I realized,” he said. “We could just be better at marketing ourselves.”
Of the report's recommendations, Stanko said he's initially focused on hiring more women and doing a comprehensive assessment of deputy workload and deployment.
Currently, the sheriff's office employs four female deputies. Two are jail corrections deputies, one is a sex crime investigator and another is a civil division supervisor.
Stanko said his office is currently looking to replace a West End deputy set to retire in January 2016. He said he would be giving special attention to female and minority applicants.
Two department volunteers, John Ammeter and Anna Phillips, are currently organizing a citizen advisory board capable of taking community concerns to the board of county commissioners. This board could offer a greater voice to West End communities, Stanko said.
The goal is to convene that board by May. If interested in being a member, contact the Sheriff's Office or email Ammeter directly at
DeVore's services typically cost some $500 an hour, but he and his team completed this report on per diem, meaning the county paid for lodging and food, which came to $1,200.
The full report is available for review on the department's website,
Community outreach is a major tenet of community-oriented policing and an equally important part of Stanko's early efforts to improve deputy relations with the community.
“Communication is 95 percent of our job,” he said.
Stanko has launched a series of hour-long “Coffee with a Cop” events to give community members a chance to meet and ask questions of deputies in an informal setting. Those began March 11 and continue March 18 and March 25 beginning at 2 p.m. at the Chimacum Cafe.
Stanko said if those events are successful, he’ll look to expand the program to other community restaurants, such as the Twana Roadhouse in Quilcene, the Halfway House in Brinnon and the Bayview Restaurant in Port Townsend.
Stanko, a former president of Port Townsend's Rotary Club, has encouraged his deputies to become more involved in community organizations. Undersheriff Joe Nole, for example, has joined the East Jefferson Rotary Club.
The department has already made strides in working with schools, though Stanko said there is room for improvement in those collaborations.
Quilcene School Principal Gary Stebbins has opened on-campus office space for deputy use as needed, though the school district does not have a full-time resource officer. Stanko said a maximum of three deputies cover the Quilcene area at any given time.
Chimacum High School Principal Whitney Meissner has welcomed deputies to visit the campus whenever they can, Stanko said. Some deputies stop by during their lunch hour to play basketball with students.
“My goal is to get them comfortable with the students and to get the students comfortable with them,” Stanko said.
In January, Stanko brought a two-day leadership development workshop, called Blue Courage, to the department to emphasize deputies' role as guardians of the community.
While most in the department received two days of Blue Courage training from Basic Law Enforcement Academy Commander David Bales, two deputies, Shane Stevenson and Charlie McCarty, traveled to the state's Criminal Justice Training Center in Burien for a four-day course on how to train others in Blue Courage.
Stanko said those deputies are available to give presentations on that policing philosophy for schools, churches and any other interested community groups.
McCarty is also a department lead for other types of training, such as rape aggression defense and critical incident training.
McCarty has teamed up with Dove House Advocacy Services in Port Townsend to provide the women-only self defense training, and he led training exercises at Brinnon School for such threats as an active shooter or a bomb threat. Both of those efforts were recently begun under Stanko.
At the end of May, Stanko plans to clarify the JCSO's mission, goals and strategic plan through a team-building workshop for supervisors facilitated by former county administrator David Goldsmith.
“It doesn't matter what I say, if there's no buy-in from your people it's hard to implement any strategic plan,” he said. “I have a top-down strategy of what I want to do but if I don't have bottom-up buy-in, I won't get too far.”
In June, the department is to undergo Washington Association of Sheriffs and Police Chiefs accreditation through the Loaned Executive Management Assistance Program. That association sends a team of law enforcement professionals to review the department's functionality and alignment with industry standards, then publish a report in August.
The department has begun crisis intervention training through the state's Criminal Justice Training Commission. That training teaches deputies how to recognize and handle people with mental health issues such as schizophrenia, bipolar disorder and personality disorders. The department has completed one day of the two-day course overview with the second day coming in May or June to focus on role playing.
Community members are invited tour the sheriff's office and jail at 79 Elkins Road in Port Hadlock during an open house from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., May 2.
For those interested in volunteering with the sheriff's office, call 385-3831 and ask for volunteer coordinator Dan Holleran.