The Candidates for Clark County Sheriff, Part Three

by lewwaters


Video of first forum here


School shootings continue to be a problem none of us to ever experience. Ideas vary on how to deal with it including the controversial idea of arming properly qualified, trained and licensed school teachers and staff.

Alluding to the matter being up to individual school districts, Shane Gardner brought out that “we have school teachers who are Reserve Sheriff’s Deputies. I believe a reserve deputy is a perfect example of a qualified, properly trained volunteer. We have called reserve deputies to augment patrol staffing at schools on days after reports of threats, etc. I believe our reserve program is an excellent example of building rapport with our community. The more that know and understand Law Enforcement the better and safer community we will be.”

Expressing how he sees many similarities in law enforcement as well as those becoming teachers and saying that his wife is also a teacher, Gardner added, “I want my wife to be safe in the workplace and am happy the districts are now instructing their staff in the run, hide, and fight. Shelter in place used to be taught, but now we are empowering the teachers to make decisions and get their children away from the danger!”

Ed Owens was more direct with “Yes, I would support a well-designed program such as you suggest,” adding “There are numerous examples of how the presence of an armed individual has prevented or stopped violence from continuing, such as the recent Clackamas Mall Shooting in 2012. Until we address the serious issues within our society, such as mental health, bullying, teen suicides and safety we will continue to see violence in our schools. Arming qualified, properly trained and licensed school volunteers will not stop violence in our society and in our schools, but it will significantly impact and prevent a school shooting in a school where such a program exists. We must do more to address the factors that contribute to these shootings while protecting our most precious resource, our children. As Sheriff, I also support and want to see our School Resource Officer program expanded to include deputies in our middle schools, which also would address this concern and place an armed presence in the schools.”

John Graser takes a different view with “No. I believe the approach to take to school shootings is to modify the schools themselves to deny entry to unauthorized people. No one should be allowed to just walk into a school without being properly screened first. I would also like to see crisis alarm systems implemented and be as plentiful as fire alarms to facilitate a more rapid law enforcement response. I would also expand the program of placing law enforcement officers in the schools, not only to provide trained security, but to be able to have greater inter-action with students. They are excellent role models for our youth.”

Saying he is not opposed to the idea, Chuck Atkins adds, “It really is up to individual school districts to make this decision. I suspect that many would opt not to allow it due to liability concerns and concerns over the competency of their staff when it comes to using a firearm in a violent confrontation.”


English jurist William Blackstone was quoted in the 1760’s “It is better that ten guilty persons escape than that one innocent suffer.” Unfortunately, as we have recently seen, that has not always be held as innocent people have spent years behind bars and the County is having to pay out Millions of dollars in settlements for “wrongful conviction,” due in large part to shoddy detective work years ago.

Asking how they would work to ensure Deputies and Investigators do not repeat that, Chuck Atkins responded, “Our deputies who work the road, our detectives who are assigned to do investigations, and our corrections deputies who are charged with the care and custody of inmates, need to be highly trained and need to be given the resources to do their jobs effectively. As a law enforcement agency we need to make sure that we are doing a competent job all the time, not just some of the time!”

“Training is an investment. Training costs money in terms of tuition, travel, and backfilling for when a person is away at training. But training is also an inexpensive insurance policy. So I believe a key to avoiding the expensive lawsuits is proper training, and of course proper supervision,” Atkins said.

Atkins tied his opposition to computer predictive policing in this with, “Imagine relying on dubious technology that tells you that a crime is going to occur on a certain day, within a certain time, and within a certain 500×500 square foot area. An officer goes to this area and waits for the offender to arrive to commit the crime. Unfortunately a completely innocent person, perhaps a person from a minority community walks through the ‘crime box.’ There is a significantly increased risk that the officer is going to unconstitutionally profile this person because he matches what the computer told him was going to happen. Now imagine that a physical altercation takes place. Your chances for an expensive lawsuit have increased significantly.”

John Graser sees “greater supervision over case dispositions” as the means. He continued, “A more thorough review of arrests by supervisors will address that issue, but the Prosecutor’s Office is in the loop as well. It’s all about checks and balances in the system. If you have a dishonest or corrupt law enforcement officer, it is difficult to detect that person in the system. We have to trust our people, but need to verify the work they do.”

Ed Owens calls for “ensuring that we are hiring and promoting the right people, then ensuring they are properly trained and supervised to maintain the highest professional standards,” adding “Situations such as these happen when there is a breakdown in management & leadership, oversight by superiors in the chain of command are not doing their job, expectations and accountability are lacking. There is also a breakdown on the prosecutor’s side of the equation; PA’s are responsible for ensuring that only cases are brought forth that should be. I understand that they often only have what is presented to them to review and make determinations on; they rely upon the input from the investigator, or law enforcement officer, and given the volume of cases have little time to dedicate to ensuring a case before their consideration is rightly there. We need to do everything possible to strengthen the investigation side of this equation and work with the PA’s office to ensure the checks and balances are in place to minimize these situations.”

Owens also sees a problem with “how we handle our Clark County Brady list,” explaining that a “Brady List” based upon the landmark Supreme Court case Brady v. Maryland, 373 U.S. 83 (1963) “applies to law enforcement and PA’s, who can be placed on this list if they lie in the performance of their official duties.”

“The way this list exists today, administrations can use this as a tool to intimidate, threaten, and coerce their officers and deputies. It is a system that does nothing to protect the officer, their rights or even afford them an opportunity to face their accuser and there is zero due process; fundamental constitutional rights denied all law enforcement officers in this county” Owen said, adding “This simply must be changed and as Sheriff I will change this.”

Shane Gardner got direct to the point with, “Policies, procedures, oversight, accreditation, and transparency!!”

“I believe team investigations for major cases with a lead investigator and an assistant helps keep the investigation progressing and avoids the appearance of impropriety should questions arise,” Gardner says. “While I worked at the Clark/Skamania Drug Task Force we worked in teams to meet informants, and build investigations. It avoided the ‘he/said she/said’ with informants (as there was always a witness), it helped having multiple people up to speed on the investigation to ascertain next steps, and many hands make light work!!”


Along with the gang problem previously mentioned, we see a problem in the county with illicit drugs and human trafficking, largely for sexual purposes.

Indicating his “passion” for this topic, Shane Gardner mentioned “Over 80% of those who are booked into our jail self report to being under the influence of at least alcohol or illicit substance,” adding “Having worked in the drug task force for 7 years I know we CANNOT arrest our way out of this problem.”

Being bilingual, Gardner recounted a discussion he had with a Hispanic suspect that had entered the country illegally to escape “corruption, murder, kidnapping, substance abuse addiction, unemployment and poverty” in his own country, but was trafficking drugs into our country. Acknowledging the conditions he fled, Gardner asked him “why would someone risk everything to cross the border, to begin poisoning this community with drugs.” Without even thinking Gardner recounts, “he retorted with ‘If your people didn’t want it, I wouldn’t bring it’.”

“We have mental health issues in our community” he continued. “Some of those affected self medicate with controlled substances. We have a population of people who are incarcerated and their children grow up without solid parental figures. We have gangs who form together to feel like they belong, or to feel empowered. These gangs often traffic drugs and women to make money. We have young ladies in our community who want to feel loved and will run into the arms of a manipulative man who will exploit them. We live in a culture that is very immediate and where kids feel entitled. All of these factors work against us in these issues.”

After listing numerous areas and programs he is involved in combating the problems daily, Gardner freely admits “I am working to connect with people so that we have a multifaceted approach. This is not solely a law enforcement issue, but a community issue.” He concluded with, “Law Enforcement needs the support of the youth, non-profits, faith based, community coalitions, parents, schools, etc. This is an all hands on deck effort. We are our brother’s keeper and we need to help one another with a hand up once in a while!”

Chuck Atkins also displayed a realistic view of this problem with “First, we need to erase the phrase ‘war on drugs’ from our vocabulary. A war implies there will eventually be a winner and a loser. Reducing addiction, whether it be an addiction involving illicit drugs or some other addiction, is the only realistic goal. It is foolhardy to believe that any human society can eradicate addiction.”

“So the question becomes, how do we work to reduce drug addiction in Clark County and crime that is the result of drug addiction. I believe it is through a combination of enforcement and prevention/treatment. The role of the Sheriff’s Office is primarily enforcement and secondarily we support those involved in prevention/treatment.”

Indicating that “The Clark County Sheriff’s Office is the host agency for the Clark-Vancouver Regional Drug Task Force,” Atkins informs us “the supply of illegal drugs entering their local communities, with the vast majority of these drugs coming from Mexico. Our local drug task force, like other task forces across the country, target mid to upper level drug trafficking organizations. In other words, they target the supply side.” He says, “Jail is often not the most effective method for an individual to conquer their addiction. This is why the Sheriff’s Office needs to support the efforts of our local prevention and treatment specialists to treat the demand side of the drug problem” to include “therapeutic courts such as drug court.”

Turning his attention to “Sex Trafficking” Atkins labels that a “despicable crime and must be dealt with.” He says “Our Tactical Detective Unit, in cooperation with other law enforcement agencies in Clark County, has conducted numerous sting operations targeting sex traffickers. These stings also involve social service organizations so the women being trafficked have immediate access to resources.”

Indicating his view of just how grave it is, Atkins said, “Let me be clear on this next point. The people (pimps) who sell women, including underage girls, are committing a horrendous and grave offense against these women and our community. They must face harsh sanctions. Justice deserves it. The men who partake in the sex trafficking industry must understand that this is not a victimless crime. They must understand that many of these women are being used as sex slaves for the benefit of their pimps. Their reality is one of violence and drug addiction all aimed at keeping them in the sex trafficking industry. Customers must also face criminal sanctions.”

“Regarding sex & human trafficking,” Ed Owens said, “there is a great deal of work to do. First, we need to start training and educating our deputies to the scope of the problem, how to recognize it, and change how they view this problem.”

Claiming his training from the Military on “human trafficking, identification and how to recognize it, how to properly report suspected trafficking,” Owens would relate that training to his Deputies. “Human trafficking, which includes the sex industry and sex trafficking, is but one component; there are other types of human trafficking,” Owens says. “The sheriff’s office is long overdue to recognize this problem.”

“Second, we need to change our reporting structure and partner with other agencies, at the state and federal levels because this is not a Clark County only problem. This is a global and national problem. Here in Clark County, we are on the I-5 pipeline/corridor. Over 80 of all human trafficking into the US come in through the US/Canadian border into WA, and then spread out from here,” he says.

Calling for a “multi-layered approach” on drugs, Owens responded, “The war on drugs has been going on for a long time with no end in sight. In many ways, this is a supply and demand issue; Americans are the biggest consumers of drugs so there will always be a supply and those willing to funnel drugs to make the money. Until we figure out how to change our national model, I doubt the war on drugs will ever go away. That being said, I feel the only effective community approaches, and there are several model programs out there that have positive results, must include prevention, treatment and enforcement. All three must sit at the table, work together, and approach this issue together.”

Owens says, “As Sheriff, I cannot change national or state policy, but I can and will work with all parties on this issue to improve the quality of life, provide the best services possible, being fiscally responsible and utilizing resources to impact this problem in our community.”

Referring back to his previous response on dealing with gangs, John Graser says, “I have considerable experience in drug investigations. I was the Commander of the Drug Task Force. The issue of sex trafficking is a growing problem and is receiving more public attention than it has previously. It is a problem of limited resources. There are not sufficient deputies at present to create a dedicated unit to deal solely with the sex trafficking problem. I would assign that responsibility to the combined Gang/Drug Task Force. It is inter-woven with the work they currently do and makes best use of the limited resources we have. If this continues to trend upward and create more demands for response, I would make a proposal to the BOCC for additional staffing to directly address this problem.”

“I would also refocus the work the Drug Task Force does now. They currently only investigate mid-level-and-above dealers. I believe they should be working on street-level dealing and neighborhood drug houses. The prevalence of drugs on the street is growing, especially in our schools and we need to deal first with local community drug issues. That should – and will, be the priority. It’s all about our quality of life. Who wants to live in a neighborhood with a drug house? Also, it is my experience that an effective street-level drug enforcement effort reduces burglary, robbery and theft as well.”


While not a requirement to be our Sheriff, I always ask candidates for public office about any Military Service, experiences, deployments and awards they may. Not having served in the Military should have no real bearing on the ability to become Sheriff.

John Graser responded “I never served in the military.”

Chuck Atkins replied, “I do not have any military experience. I became a police officer at a young age and have been serving my community in that capacity ever since. I have found over the last several years a high number of young veterans who are leaving military service and being drawn into law enforcement. I wholeheartedly believe this is because they have learned what it means to be a part of a team and to engage in work that has meaning for the whole community.”

“My son Jason served in the United States Marine Corp and was deployed to Mogadishu, Somalia. I’m very proud of him and all of our veterans.”

Ed Owens listed, “I entered active duty Air Force on 8/3/1988 after graduating high school. My MOS was initially Security Forces/Police, specializing in security and counter terrorism. On 8/4/1994 I transferred to the Air Force Reserves out of McChord AFB. In 2004 I was selected to be a First Sergeant; I retired (Honorable Discharge) as a First Sergeant 1/1/2009.”

“I have four combat deployments. I was deployed and served in Desert Shield/Storm in 1990-91. After 9/11, I was mobilized and did homeland security missions around the US as part of Noble Eagle and deployed to Saudi Arabia as part of a Team Leader to a Joint Task Force for Operation Southern Watch and a second deployment to Qatar/CENTAF Headquarters as a Team Leader, providing protective detail/dignitary protection for 18 ambassadors and 26 General Staff. My last deployment to the Middle East for Iraqi Freedom was 2006, Kirkuk, Iraq as a First Sergeant (1 of 6 for the Joint Operations FOB).

“Other notable TDY’s include 1 of 5 Air Force Cops selected to represent the US Air Force one year to Canada on a goodwill mission.”

“47 awards and citations, including two meritorious service medals, commendation medal, two achievement medals, 9 various outstanding unit citations including two with Valor, humanitarian service medal, expeditionary medial, national defense medal, campaign medals, and foreign national medals.”

“Two time recipient of the John L. Levitow Award to leadership and two time recipient of the Commandants Award for leadership.”

“13 Top-Cop of the Quarter, 2 Top-Cop of the Year, 1 Airman of the Year for my base, a Top 12 Airman of the Year nominee for the entire US Air Force in 1991.”

“E5, E6 and E7 promotions all for exception performance outside of promotion cycles (STEP or PEP promotions)”

“President of the First Sergeants Council for McChord AFB two years.”

“Involved in the development of the Deployed First Sergeant manual and training guidelines for all Air Force Reserve First Sergeants.”

Shane Gardner responded, “I enlisted in the US Army in 1992. I was a senior at Central Washington University but had somehow missed a class I should have taken as a sophomore. Now, as a senior, both classes I needed to graduate were offered on the same day at the same time. The classes were only offered every two years. I took one of them but knew I would not be able to graduate until I could take the other 2 years later.”

“I was also working at the local radio station at this time and had an opportunity to go to a time management seminar in Yakima. I decided it would be beneficial to go. My wife was doing her student teaching and long story short; I hit a patch of ice on the way to Yakima and totaled our only vehicle.”

“I was sitting at our rental between classes and saw the advertisement for the Army Reserve. My best friend in High School had skipped High School graduation to join the Army and had jumped into Panama with the 2nd Ranger Bn. I gave some thought to it and told Heidi I was going to talk to the recruiter about the 1 weekend a month, two weeks out of the year gig. Boy oh boy was that recruiter good! When I went to the MEPS station in Spokane, he talked me into signing up for a full four year hitch. I called Heidi and while not thrilled, she knew that I had to do something meaningful while waiting to get that last class I needed to graduate.”

“I completed basic training at Ft. Jackson, and then went to the Defense Language Institute in Monterey, Ca. After graduating as a Department of Defense Certified Spanish Linguist, I was sent to Goodfellow AFB in San Angelo, TX. After graduating there I was sent to Ft. Huachuca for a 5 week course to learn to use the tools of my trade and then on to permanent party at Ft. Campbell, Ky. While I was stationed with the 101st Airborne Div (AASLT) I had opportunities to go to NTC, JRTC, Pre-Ranger, Ranger School, Air Assault School, and the DOD Worldwide Language Olympics.”

“When my ETS date came up, we moved back home to Vancouver, and I joined the Washington Army National Guard. The 341st MI Bn in Camp Murray, WA was one of eight linguist units in the nation. While working there, I saw an Active Duty Special Work (ADSW) assignment opening in Vancouver WA with the Clark/Skamania Drug Task Force. I worked ADSW with the drug task force for two years. During this time I attended Officer Candidate School through the Washington Guard.” When I completed OCS, I was offered a job with Clark County Sheriff’s Office so I deferred my commission for a year. After I accepted my commission I had 1 year I could defer Officer Basic.”

“In 2000 I went to Military Intelligence Officer Basic Course in Ft. Huachuca for four months, returned and was a platoon leader with the 341st MI Bn in Camp Murray.”

“In 2001 I had the opportunity to become an undercover detective. I worked with the Washington Army National Guard to relax grooming standards for me so that I could remain in the guard and grow my hair out. Our discussions went all the way up to a Colonel who suggested I shave my head and wear a wig during drug deals. I resigned from the guard in June of 2001.”

United States Army

• Participant Department of Defense Worldwide Language Olympics – Monterey, CA 1996!
• The Army Commendation Medal – Ft. Campbell, KY 1996!
• The Army Achievement Medal – Ft. Campbell, KY 1996!
• The Army Achievement Medal – Ft. Campbell, KY 1995!
• Ranger School graduate – Ft. Benning, GA 1994!
• 311th MI Battalion Soldier of the Month – Ft. Campbell, KY March 1994!
• Division II Soldier of the Month 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault) – March 1994!
• Air Assault School Graduate – Ft. Campbell, KY 1993!
• Outstanding Soldier Leader of the Cycle (Basic Training) – Ft. Jackson 1992!

Washington Army National Guard

• Citizen Soldier Award Recipient – Intelligence Officer Basic, Ft. Huachuca, AZ 2000!
• German Armed Forces Proficiency Badge in Gold —-Ft. Huachuca, AZ 2000!
• Washington State Strength Management Ribbon – Camp Murray, WA 2000!
• Distinguished Honor Graduate, Officer Candidate School – Camp Murray, WA 1998!
• 341st MI Battalion Non-Commissioned Officer of the Year – Camp Murray, WA 1998!


To get a feel about the candidate’s views on each other, I asked “Which other candidate, besides yourself, would you like to see make it through the top two primary?”

Shane Gardner responded, “This is up to the voters… not me.”

John Graser replied, “Chuck Atkins, without further comment.”

Ed Owens said, “Shane Gardner.”

Chuck Atkins reply was, “If I had to pick one, it would be John Graser. Although I strongly disagree with his plan, I do respect his years of service with the Sheriff’s Office. He’s also the only other candidate who has not tried to hide his political party affiliation.”

This concludes my comparison of the four candidates for Clark County Sheriff. I urge all reading this to visit each candidates web page listed at the beginning of Part One and learn more about each candidate.

I also urge you to make the time to come to the Sheriff’s Candidate forum scheduled for May 22, 7 PM at the YWCA, 3609 Main Street, Vancouver, Washington 98663 and hosted by the National Women’s Coalition Against Violence & Exploitation.

I wish all of the candidates the best of luck in their campaigns. May the best man win!

Candidates full responses may be viewed at Chuck Atkins; Ed Owens; John Graser and Shane Gardner

11 Comments to “The Candidates for Clark County Sheriff, Part Three”

  1. Great information Lew. Thank you for your work on this!

  2. You’re welcome, Craig. I hope this helps all and as I said before, I am sure there will be other comparisons and forums where more questions and answers will be heard.

  3. Thanks for the information. They all had some good points in each of the areas. I think that the Sheriff’s Candidate Forum will show the leaders in the group.

  4. That is the idea, Ron. This gives us all something to begin with as we listen, watch and see what each does in the weeks ahead. The forum is something I am definitely looking forward to.

  5. This is a topic which is newr tto my heart… Thank you! Exactly where are your contact details though?

  6. Since the topic is of so much interest to you, I’m sure you won’t mind that I edited out all of your spam links 😉

  7. Very good series Lew.

    Personally, I think drugs ought to be legalized, but that’s another matter and is not up to law enforcement. Just the same, I’m tending towards John Graser’s camp. Good background and he strikes me as a straight shooter who knows where he’s coming from through his own experience and deliberative process. I also like that he is up front about his party affiliation.

    About the school shootings: I’ve wondered why deadbolts aren’t placed on every classroom door. So far as I know – this isn’t the case. It sure wasn’t at Sandy Hook. Relatively inexpensive. I looked up the cost on these once. The high end could be a couple hundred apiece, but seems to me the low end models would do the job. A fraction of the cost of the high end. Could buy a lot of time. So could a well placed gun or two, in strategic and secured locations, accessible only to well qualified volunteer handlers, in an emergency situation.

  8. Dead bolts may sound like a good idea, but I fear they would end up trapping kids in room. If the door has glass, like most, the dead bolt wouldn’t stop a shooter from getting through the glass or even an outside window.

    Then too, how many would start complaining about making schools a prison?

    And, the door was locked at Sandy Hook and he broke in.

    I don’t know what would be the best way to go, every solution thought of has its drawbacks. The thing I like about allowing school personnel to be armed, you wouldn’t even really need them to be armed, just the knowledge that a few may be would get some to think twice.

    Ultimately, we need to find a better way to deal with the people that go off like that. That in my estimation is the real problem.

  9. I have enjoyed your three columns and thank you Lew! I kind of like Mr. Grasser’s views on curtailing local drug dealers and his other ideas of putting more deputies out. But in this time of budget cutting, how does he plan on getting the extra needed funding required for this?

  10. Good question Ann and maybe one you can ask him at one of the future forums to expand on.

    Little things like that often get lost in teh discussion over more pressing matter when actually, they need to be just as pressing.

  11. A few things I’d like to know from John Glaser are:
    1. Glaser retired in 1996 due to injuries sustained in an on-duty crash. What is his medical status now? Is he fit for duty? Will taxpayers be on the hook if he aggravates his condition?
    2. I would guess that Glaser is getting some kind of disability retirement that we are paying for. Will he continue to draw that paycheck plus a full paycheck as Sheriff?
    3. Glaser has been out of the policing business for almost 20 years. How has he kept up with changing police technologies and procedures?

    I plan on being at the May 22nd meeting, but you know how those things go. Only a few people will be able to ask questions – then the candidates usually find ways of not answering direct questions.

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