Green pledges CEO expertise on first day as sheriff
August 27, 2008 · Updated 3:57 PM
MARYSVILLE Tom Greene has served in the highest echelons of the Snohomish County Sheriffs office and is now asking voters to place him at the very top.
A 35-year veteran of law enforcement, Greene has spent 25 of those in the county after getting his start with the Los Angeles County Sheriff.
With an MBA and decades of experience, Greene said he is the most qualified candidate of the three in the Aug. 21 primary, and the only one who can fill the big shoes the very first day on the job.
Like the other two candidates, Greene is not pledging to put more deputies on the streets but promotes a shift in priorities to crime prevention, with a focus on adding more support staff to relieve the burden on the departments sworn officers.
We need to be teaching crime prevention, Greene said. To me it is fundamental and it makes sense. You save the costs if you prevent that crime.
He said 20 percent of the bad apples create 80 percent of the work for law enforcers, and Greene wants to apply the sheriffs stretched resources to precisely where they are needed. That guarantees a better return on the taxpayers investment.
To do that officers need the technology and support staff that make their efforts succeed. Many deputies are now doing clerical chores such as data entry that could be done by less expensive employees. If crime statistics are compiled and analyzed the sheriff will know where to exert the efforts, for the biggest payoff. For example, deputies in the southern part of the county respond to twice the average number of calls their counterparts around the country did. A leader needs to know things like that when allocating time and money.
That will require an investment in the back office functions, but the street officers and citizens will benefit, according to Greene. That will also allow the countys largest independent department to measure its results.
Theres lot of emerging technologies that we can apply to law enforcement, he said. I think thats very important.
Greene far outranks his opponents with his education and brass billet, but its tough for him to run against the record of current sheriff Rick Bart, who cannot run for re-election after 12 years in office, due to term limits. Bart has not endorsed his number three employee but does serve on his steering committee; he may be keeping his powder dry until the general election. Greene said he has differed with Barts decisions and approach at times, but like any other officer has had to follow orders and implement policies, even when he has disagreed with them.
Greene said Bart has put plenty of feet on the ground by adding scores of new deputies over the years, but now he would diverge by putting some more money into the behind the scenes functions.
I think hes done a tremendous job, Greene said. I want to raise the awareness of support.
Greene said he will have a much easier time with the Snohomish County Council and County Executive Aaron Reardon because he spends much of his time working with them on budget and other issues. Bart is known for shooting from the hip in several disputes with Reardon and the Council, but Greene said he will be able to support the deputies without alienating anyone.
Im up there almost weekly, Greene said. I think its going to be more positive.
Bart and Reardon have traded barbs in the newspaper over money and the expensive county vehicle maintenance costs, but Greene said he has often been the cushion between the two egos.
It would be worse if I wasnt there, he shrugged during a recent interview.
His high rank in the sheriffs office largely precludes him from running as an outsider but he stressed his MBA from USC and years of experience crafting and defending department budgets something John Lovick and Rob Beidler have not done. While sheriffs Lt. Rob Beidler has garnered the support of just about every police officers union in the county, Greene has locked up the endorsements of most of the brass at many county and municipal police departments. He said he decided early on that he would not even ask for the endorsement of the county deputies association because as sheriff he would have to hire, fire and discipline those same men and women. When Bart ran for office there were three internal candidates and the fallout was problematic, according to Greene.
I think it impacted public service, he said, adding that the departments chief executive needs to be objective when negotiating labor contracts and meting out discipline. Soliciting endorsements from his current and potential subordinates would put everybody in a difficult position, so thats why he didnt even ask.
My endorsements are weighted towards the CEOs of their organizations, Greene said. Beidlers are mostly labor groups.
Asked if he could be labeled with a tag such as bean counter after so many years in the headquarters unit, Greene shoots back quickly:
Ask the three burglars I helped put in jail six weeks ago, he quipped, adding a definition of the sheriffs task. His job is to oversee; its not to be a street cop anymore.
Greenes idea of more support includes a cadet program of younger employees, especially those interested in becoming a police officer but who are too young to hold a commission. They could answer phones and make sure callers get a response within 30 minutes for non-emergency issues, take some reports via email and web-based forms, and mail hard copies of forms for crime victims to fill out.
That way at least the caller is getting some attention fairly rapidly, Greene said.