Candidates for Clallam County Sheriff disagreed on whether deputies should carry a drug that reverses overdoses and how well staffed the department is in a League of Women Voters forum.
Incumbent Bill Benedict, who is running for a fourth term, faced off against former Detective Jim McLaughlin during the forum on Oct. 3. They are on the Nov. 6 ballot.
Benedict said that currently his office does not provide deputies with naloxone — commonly known by the brand name Narcan — primarily because of response times and for financial reasons. The drug reverses overdoses and is carried by many first responders in the area.
Benedict said deputies have never been first responders to someone suffering from an opioid overdose in the unincorporated county. That, paired with an estimated cost of $4,000 to $6,000 annually to pay for the drug, is why deputies do not carry it, he said.
“The way our medics are distributed throughout this county, the medics … always beat us in the case of opioid distress,” he said. “That isn’t to say — and I’m talking with our health officer now — that if the price of Narcan goes down and it becomes more readily available I wouldn’t entertain doing that.”
He said detectives with the Olympic Peninsula Narcotics Enforcement Team carry Narcan.
McLaughlin, a former detective with the Clallam County Sheriff’s Office, countered Benedict’s assertion that no deputy has responded first to an opioid overdose in the unincorporated county.
“I have been doing CPR when the medics got there and they distributed Narcan and the person woke up,” McLaughlin said. “I’ve seen it in the unincorporated part of the county and I know it happens.
“Whether it happens a whole lot or not — enough to justify the cost — to me it doesn’t matter. Any life is worth saving.”
Benedict, formerly McLaughlin’s boss, said he would like to know the details of the incident McLaughlin spoke of, saying it never came to his attention.
When asked about what programs or practices need changed, McLaughlin said he didn’t have enough time to talk about all the programs he would change.
“I don’t believe we provide adequate patrol out there,” he said. “I think we’re short. In 22 years we haven’t added any deputies out there.”
Benedict disputes the need for more deputies. He lauded the teamwork of the local, state and federal law enforcement agencies that work together.
“The fact is the silo mentality is something that I ran against the incumbent 12 years ago when I was elected because we had agencies that we didn’t talk to and took great pride at the end of the city limit,” Benedict said.
“Since then we have a number of formal agreements with all of the law enforcement agencies that we cooperate together.”
Benedict pointed to an incident in July when the Port Angeles Police Department, Coast Guard Investigative Services, U.S. Border Patrol, Clallam County Sheriff’s Office and OPNET responded together to an active shooter in the unincorporated county.
“What we can do is cut down on the growth through cooperating, which is what I’m a huge advocate for,” Benedict said.
McLaughlin said agencies are able to work together.
“The federal agencies, I’m not sure why they’re all here or what they are doing, but they are here and here they work and here we work with them,” McLaughlin said. “They do come in very handy for some these major things we run across as backup units or getting there ahead of time.”
Jesse Major is a reporter with the Olympic Peninsula News Group, which is composed of Sound Publishing newspapers Peninsula Daily News, Sequim Gazette and Forks Forum. He can be reached at 360-452-2345, ext. 56250, or at jmajor@peninsula dailynews.com.