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Political Forum includes sheriff race candidates

A political forum held the evening of Monday, April 21, at North Lake School afforded public insight into the campaign platforms of this year’s election candidates.

The forum was hosted by the Christmas Valley/North Lake Chamber of Commerce.  Participating were county commissioner candidates Dan Shoun, incumbent, Kenny LaPlant, Sr., challenger, Ken Kestner, incumbent, and Lucinda Nolan, challenger.

Though the Lake County Sheriff’s race will be determined in the fall general election, incumbent Phil McDonald and challenger Mike Taylor also participated in the forum.

Following brief introductions by the candidates, the bulk of the evening’s focus centered on a question-and-answer session, the lion’s share of which appeared to be directed to McDonald and Taylor.

As the challenger in the sheriff’s race, Taylor acknowledged that he and McDonald’s respective levels of experience come from different worlds — Taylor previously worked for the Tacoma Police Department in Washington State — but cited this as a source of broader overall experience.

Taylor noted he handled some 5,700 calls per year for the department, which he described as more calls rural deputies would handle in a lifetime career.

“It doesn’t mean I’m better than them,” he said.  “It just means I have more experience.”

Taylor said his philosophy in law enforcement centers around building trust within the communities of Lake County.  This would include an emphasis on cooperative and teamwork efforts, and outreach locally with deputies interacting in the schools with teachers and students.

In short, a proactive versus reactive approach, he said.

Both candidates were asked about their approach to methamphetamine labs.  McDonald and Taylor agreed that labs are on the wane as a public safety issue since ephedrine-based cold and allergy medications have become ‘behind-the-counter’ in retail stores.

Another question for both candidates included the number of deputies necessary for an investigation.  McDonald and Taylor agreed that agency response depends upon the situation at hand.

The candidates also shared similar responses to a question related to suspicious activity around payday eras.  McDonald noted that previous practices of observing and tracking license plates of vehicles and watching frequency and duration of individuals traveling in and out of a specific residence are no longer allowed.

As a result, the department relies on informants for information.

Taylor noted this is a situation where the community can help serve as the eyes and ears for the agency.  Enough validated information can lead to the execution of a search warrant, he said.

Some questions were directed specifically to each candidate.  The 2014/15 budget year was specifically addressed of McDonald, who noted the department’s budget is about $2 million in total.  Items requested for the upcoming year include three patrol vehicles and an upgrade to the agency’s records management system that will improve departmental efficiency, he said.

McDonald also addressed the issue of response to animal abuse cases, noting that three deputies recently were sent to a training class on this topic.  Given limited resources and a lack of a dedicated animal control officer, the department does what it can when they can, McDonald said.

He noted that barking and loose dogs rank at a much lower priority level than animal abuse cases.

Questions specific to Taylor included means of improving community safety and his definition of police officer accountability.

Taylor suggested staggered shift hours for deputies, broken up into day and swing shifts, and balancing out hours with a third deputy to maximize available coverage.

Regarding accountability, he said deputies must be held to a higher standard than the average citizen.

“You can’t arrest someone for DUI, and then turn around and go get skunked yourself,” Taylor said.

A professional manual detailing codes of conduct and procedure details ranging from call response to the use of force, he said.

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