PIERCE COUNTY, Wash. — The two internal candidates to replace retiring Pierce County Sheriff Paul Pastor will face off in the general election.
Detective Ed Troyer, spokesman for the Sheriff’s Department, carried nearly 53 percent of the Aug. 4 primary vote, according to Friday’s vote totals.
“I was born and raised in this area, and I’ve been part of the community forever,” Troyer said. “All my charity work is being tied into all of this. I think people have been very supportive of me and the tools I bring.”
In second place with nearly 20 percent of the vote was Lt. Cyndie Fajardo, who runs emergency response for the department.
Fajardo was outpacing the other candidates, County Council Chairman Doug Richardson and federal police officer Darin Harris, in the top-two primary.
Fajardo said she was prepared for Troyer to overwhelmingly win the primary. She said she knew upon filing that Troyer’s name recognition would be hard to beat.
“He’s been on the television for the last 20 years,” she said. “He has been the face of the department, and most people thought Ed Troyer was the sheriff before he was even running. That’s just a matter of informing the public.”
Troyer has spent $10,146 of his $11,570 campaign contributions, and Fajardo has $3,983 left of the $48,798 she’s raised thus far, according to Public Disclosure Commission reports.
Both insiders have based their campaigns on experience and community engagement, but their messages on department funding and hiring show different priorities.
‘NOTHING TO HIDE’
Both are under scrutiny for recent actions.
Ellis died in Tacoma police custody earlier this year, and the Sheriff’s Department investigated the case. Troyer made a number of public statements regarding the investigation that supporters of Ellis’ family say amounted to covering up police wrongdoing.
Troyer told The News Tribune recently he could not comment on the department’s investigation now because the State Patrol has taken up the case after some people, including Gov. Jay Inslee, questioned whether the Sheriff’s Department could fairly investigate Ellis’ death.
“The state doesn’t want us to comment on it, and we’ll be glad to release information when it’s appropriate,” Troyer said. “It’s nothing we are hiding.”
Fajardo recently faced scrutiny over her leadership of the department’s Special Investigations Unit. The drug unit has been accused by the Pierce County Prosecutor’s Office of violating seven agency protocols, including falsifying records and conducting improper searches.
Asked why she decided to run for sheriff knowing there would be a simultaneous ongoing investigation into the conduct of a unit she supervised, Fajardo said, “Because I have nothing to be ashamed of, and I have nothing to hide. I know what had happened.”
THE CANDIDATES’ PRIORITIES
Troyer, who has been with the department for his entire 35-year career, said he hopes to bolster the department’s ranks by hiring officers and deputies from other agencies. When recruits without experience are hired, the agency spends $60,000 per person to send them to the state’s law enforcement academy, he said.
The Sheriff’s Department has been in communication with several officers from neighboring law enforcement agencies and is in the process of hiring some of them. Troyer said, as sheriff, he would continue that effort.
Fajardo, who has spent 32 years of her 36-year career in law enforcement with the department, believes in hiring more diverse deputies. To do so, she told The News Tribune, she would encourage candid conversations in the department on the lack of retention of female and minority deputies.
She also would like to review the financial requirements of becoming a deputy. There are financial history checks during the hiring process, and Fajardo said that’s where many Black applicants are lost.
“I think we need to take a more personal look,” she said. “Was it situational or was it a pattern or their character that makes them not a fit for this job?”
While there are ongoing calls for law enforcement agencies to see dramatic reductions in their budgets, Fajardo told The News Tribune there needs to be an honest discussion with the community on what it wants.
A 2016 study on staffing at the sheriff’s department found that the number of deputies within the department was decreasing. In 2009, there were 235 deputies. In 2016, there were 189.
Troyer said the department has .7 of a deputy per 1,000 residents. There are more than two deputies for every 1,000 residents in the King County Sheriff’s Department.
Fajardo said rather than relying on the Pierce County Council to approve more funding for the department, there needs to be a fundamental change in policing and who responds to 911 calls. That shift doesn’t require more law enforcement, but rather more mental and behavioral health partnerships.
“(The department) cannot continue to police the way we have been policing, and I have listened to those stories, and I have seen their frustration in not getting what they need,” she said. “That study is based on manpower of responding to every 911 call. But is that what’s needed? Are we using our resources in the best manner?”
Troyer said he would advocate for getting more deputies and investigators.
The department could double its staffing and still have fewer deputies per 1,000 residents than other sheriff departments, he said, citing the 2016 study.
“We will not be de-policing,” he said. “If we doubled, we would still be understaffed and burning out because we don’t have enough.”
Troyer said that he would allow Fajardo to remain in her position at the department if he won. When posed the same question, Fajardo said: “I am not making any promises to anyone at this point. I have to win first.”
Cox Media Group