Opinion

Boyer sticking up for deputies in spite of it all

You have to hand it to Steve Boyer. Against all odds last week, the embattled Kitsap County sheriff came out in a published report and professed to be “very proud” of his deputies.

Boyer’s statement of support came following a particularly embarassing week that saw a deputy accidently shoot a man in the leg after he’d climbed a tree and been reported as acting irrationally. The deputy apparently was trying to subdue the subject with her Taser but unholstered her 9-mm pistol instead and pulled the trigger, resulting in a non-fatal wound.

Earlier that same afternoon, another deputy was speeding to a bank holdup in East Bremerton when his patrol car hit another vehicle, crashed into a concrete barrier and went up in flames. The deputy was unhurt, but the car was destroyed and the accident is under investigation.

Just a month before, two deputies responding to a 911 call around 4 a.m. shot and killed a 26-year-old man said to have been wielding a machete. That incident, too, remains under investigation.

A lesser sheriff might have pointed out the irony of his deputies, of late involved in so many misadventures, simultaneously waging a particularly nasty campaign against Boyer’s re-election bid, in which they’ve accused the two-term incumbent of “incompetence.”

But Boyer, the subject of a vote of “no confidence” from the Deputy Sheriff’s Guild earlier this year, prefers to take the high road.

Meanwhile, Kitsap County last week issued a press release announcing it had reached a settlement agreement in its protracted contract neogiations with the deputies. According to a county spokeswoman, the Guild had endorsed the deal and planned to submit it to the rank and file on July 7 with a recommendation that the members ratify it.

However, according to the Guild’s president, Deputy Mike Rodrigue, that isn’t entirely accurate.

“We haven’t made a decision whether to accept their latest proposal,” said Rodrigue. “We were surprised to see the county’s press release. It gave the indication that it was a done deal, which is far from the truth.”

Of course it isn’t a done deal. That won’t be the case until the deputies sign off on it — assuming they do. But presumably the settlement has the Guild’s tacit blessing or Rodrigue wouldn’t have agreed to put the matter to a vote. That’s why unions elect representatives in the first place. If all he’s doing is relaying the county’s offer to his membership without a recommendation, what is Rodrigue doing that a fax machine couldn’t?

Rodrigue, of course, finds himself in an awkward position anyway. According to most observers, he’s the logical candidate to be named undersheriff if the Guild’s hand-picked choice, Jim Rye, defeats Boyer. Nothing wrong with that — except that the Guild’s main gripe against Boyer is his inability to broker a contract deal beween the deputies and the county.

This would seem to create a conflict of interest for Rodrigue, who, on the one hand, is responsible for negotiating a new contract for the new deputies but also stands to benefit personally if the impasse continues — at least until after the election. Which could explain Rodrigue’s seeming ambivalence to the deal struck this week.

As has been noted here before, tension between the sheriff and his deputies is nothing new in Kitsap County, and there’s no question the deputies are taking very seriously their concerns about Boyer. The question is whether you should take those concerns seriously.

From where we sit, it seems like Kitsap County residents are being served pretty well by Steve Boyer. A lot better than he’s being served by his deputies anyway.

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