After a candidate’s post, Sheriff’s Office suspends ridealongs

“Political games” or a violation of department policy? It depends on who you ask.

EVERETT — Want to tag along with a sheriff’s deputy to see what the front lines of law enforcement look like?

You’ll have to wait.

Earlier this month, the Snohomish County Sheriff’s Office suspended all ridealongs until further notice. Those already scheduled were to be canceled.

The reason? Politics.

On Oct. 1, Anna Rohrbough, a County Council candidate in the Nov. 5 general election, wrote about her experience riding with deputies in a Facebook post.

The Mukilteo Republican attached five photos: a baggie of methamphetamine, a greenbelt outside of a Home Depot, the inside of an abandoned dental clinic where people had been squatting, a tent with trash strewn about and a closeup of a pile of litter.

“These pictures speak loud,” Rohrbough wrote. “Don’t assume we went looking for these — it’s just there, in plain sight for all of us to see.”

She signed off: “We need to Elect ANNA!”

A little more than 27 hours later, sheriff’s Capt. Scott Parker sent an email to staff.

“Effective now and until further notice all ride-alongs are suspended,” he wrote. “If, for instance a ride has already been approved/scheduled, please make arrangements to cancel and explain they will be rescheduled for a later date.”

Under the directive, employees and volunteers can continue to participate.

Rohrbough also wrote about her experience in a paid political advertisement published on The Daily Herald’s website.

At a candidate forum on Oct. 18, Sheriff Ty Trenary indicated that Rohrbough crossed the line when she wrote about her experience on social media. He said it was a violation of the department’s policy.

“To invite somebody running for office and allow them to use that for political purposes is just not acceptable,” Trenary said.

The sheriff’s office policy manual does not appear to expressly prohibit people from posting photos or video taken during ridealongs on social media. Nor does it seem to address whether people can use ride-alongs for political purposes.

County code explains that employees may not engage in “political activity while on duty.”

Trenary’s opponent in the sheriff’s race, Sgt. Adam Fortney, helped organize the ridealong for Rohrbough, and drove her around for a portion of it.

Rohrbough and Fortney have openly supported each other’s campaigns. According to Public Disclosure Commission records, Rohrbough contributed $250 to Fortney’s campaign. Fortney gave Rohrbough $125.

Fortney has made the suspension of ridealongs a talking point on the campaign trail. In Facebook posts and at candidate forums, he connected the suspension to a lack of transparency from the sheriff’s office.

In the 23 years he’s been on the force, Fortney said he’s never seen a sheriff suspend ride-alongs.

Rohrbough conjectured in a Facebook post that Trenary was playing “political games.”

In an email, sheriff’s spokesperson Shari Ireton said ride-alongs will be suspended until after the election.

“We will review our existing policy and may make changes to the language so as to avoid similar issues in the future,” Ireton wrote.

Zachariah Bryan: 425-339-3431; Twitter: @zachariahtb.

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