WALLA WALLA - Although upset by rumors and controversy which have surfaced during his run for Walla Walla County sheriff, John Turner said he intends to stay above it.
"I've decided to take the high road," he said. "I'm running on what I bring to the table."
Turner said people have told him the criticism of his time as managing partner of Ash Hollow winery is actually good news. Attacks on his character and integrity are a "last ditch effort" by opponents who have been unable to attack his ideas or vision.
"So that's how I'm looking at it. It's actually a compliment," he said.
Turner is running against Bill White, a Sheriff's Office captain. Both have listed their party preference as Republican Party.
In a Sept. 29 interview, Turner spoke about why he is running for office and what he hopes to accomplish if elected.
He said he is seeking the job because of his "passion for public safety and law enforcement" which combined with his training, education and background and his love for the Walla Walla area make him the best candidate for the job.
"I've seen many management styles and I've seen things that work and things that don't work," he said. Although he has found it difficult to be critical of the sheriff's office, "things can be done better."
Turner said among the changes he will look at if elected would be new computer-assisted programs to increase performance and accountability, reinstatement of the K9 program, implementing 24/7 coverage, building up the reserve officer program and relieving regular deputies of having to serve legal papers by shifting the job to reserve officers or contract workers.
About the K9 program, Turner said he could use a network of friends in the law enforcement community to help the sheriff's office set up a K9 program. He would also work with booster clubs and seek foundation grants to keep the program operating.
Turner said he would "continue to work within the budget" to establish his goals, but also said there are many other sources of funds that can be tapped.
In regards to implementing 24/7 coverage in the county, Turner said, "I do think there is a way to look at the week and structure it differently ... and building a reserve program is key to that."
Reserve officers should be trained in a reserve office academy so they have the same training as regular officers. If the program were built up to 15-25 deputies, they could work two shifts a month, he said. Even if at first those reserves could not be supplied with vehicles, having them ride with regular deputies would be better than having officers working alone, as they do now, he said.
Turner said he has received wide support for the reserve program from people in the area who want to be reserve officers as well as support the program.
"We have a really, really generous and talented community," he said.
He said the largest cost would be the startup. "Once they are up and running, it doesn't cost as much to maintain them."
When asked where the 24/7 coverage was most needed, Turner said he didn't have the statistics at hand. But the important thing was to have deputies ready to respond at all hours of the day or night when a crime was reported.
"You can't deter crime and arrest criminals when there is no one on duty," he said. "I think the vision is to have a professional, responsible, responsive police department."
Turner said people in the community have said they would be willing to lend their expertise with writing grants, but refused to say who they are. "They've asked me not to disclose their names," he said.
He also said it was his understanding the sheriff's office has an administrative assistant's position that is funded, but at present not filled. If elected, he would fill that position and that person would also work at writing grant requests.
"They would work on both traditional and non-traditional funding sources, such as grants, boosters and foundations," he said.
However, if elected, Turner said he would not be "kicking over tables" to implement changes.
"I'm well aware my goals will take time and may take years," he said.
Turner began his law enforcement career as a cadet and reserve officer with the Manhattan Beach, Calif., police department while he also attended college. After graduation, he joined the Los Angeles Police Department, where he was a full-time officer from 1988 through 2002 after which he joined the law firm of Lackie & Dammeier as a police attorney. He also remained a LAPD reserve officer from 2002 to 2004.
Turner become involved with Ash Hollow Winery in 2003 as an investor, and he and his wife, Jacqui, moved to Walla Walla in 2004 after he had been offered a job as the managing partner of the business.
Turner left Ash Hollow in mid-2008 and took a position with the Department of Defense to work as an anti-terrorism investigator with the U.S. Army in Iraq. He returned to the United States in October 2009 and declared his intention to run for sheriff in February of this year.
Although raised in Los Angeles, Turner said he and his wife's family roots run deep in Walla Walla County and this was why he left his job as an attorney in California to come here.
"The decision to move here was strongly based on family, but leaving (California) was not an easy decision at all," he said.
However, quality of life issues as well as the "double bonus of the family that lived here" caused him and Jacqui to make the move.