When Ron Krebs was elected San Juan County Sheriff in 2014, the department had been experiencing a relatively quiet period.
All that was soon to change.
In 2016, the sheriff’s office investigated the rape of a two-year-old boy, a murder-suicide and a woman beaten to death with a rifle. For a place that rarely experiences violent crime, it was a shock.
San Juan County detectives worked on these cases in addition to their “standard” incidents of theft, drug abuse, domestic violence and driving under the influence.
Then came the conviction of an Orcas teacher for sexual misconduct this past June. After a lead investigator on the case was accused of misconduct, Krebs asked a Skagit County detective for an internal review. While initially the allegations were not substantiated, the information gathered was enough for Judge Donald Eaton to grant the teacher a new trial. Shortly after that, new evidence emerged, and Krebs decided to put the detective in question on administrative leave. He said the integrity of his office was his primary concern. (For more on that story, see page 3).
Through all of the events this year, Krebs has kept an open line of communication with the press. We applaud him for his conduct since he was elected. The possibility that a detective may have taken advantage of a crime victim is disturbing, and we hope Krebs will continue to handle the situation ethically and fairly. Ultimately, it falls on his shoulders.
Even in the face of criticism, our sheriff has made an effort to take responsibility and offer transparency to the public. This past winter, when an Orcas man called 911 in the middle of the night after a home invasion, deputies didn’t arrive until 8:30 a.m. the next morning. Residents were scared and angry. Krebs responded by asking the Skagit County Sheriff’s office to conduct an internal investigation of the 911 call. He also held a town hall meeting to address concerns, and enacted new protocols within his department to ensure it wouldn’t happen again.
When tensions between police and the public made national headlines this summer, Krebs reached out to his community. He wrote in a letter to the editor, “While we are a nation that is divided, we are fortunate here in our little paradise to be the exact opposite. During this time of strife and negativity, we remain positive. Every last one of us are extremely grateful for your support. We remain 100 percent committed to continuing the brand of community policing that protects our island way of life. Where education comes before enforcement. Where serving the public in a professional and respectful manner is paramount to everything we do. Treating everyone with dignity and respect is a top priority.”
Krebs also participated in a panel discussion on Orcas in July with other law enforcement representatives to nurture a positive relationship with those his office serves.
Through a very difficult year, Sheriff Krebs has been a strong leader and quickly addressed problems in his department. In the long run, it will make for a healthier sheriff’s office. We are hopeful that a period of serenity will follow this uncharacteristically volatile time in our communities. Until then, we commend law enforcement figures who are doing the right thing.