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Rally for law enforcement: Tolerance, collaboration, and dialogue

Exclusive interview with Snohomish County Sheriff Adam Fortney at the Rally to Support Sheriff Fortney and Local Law Enforcement on June 27, 2020 in Lake Stevens.

By Katrina Kukhar and Mario Lotmore | Lynnwood Times Staff

  • June 28: Included Facebook poll results on community support to defund law enforcement agencies

Lake Stevens, WA, June 27, 2020  –  The intersection of Highway 9 and 204 became the scene of support for local law enforcement and Snohomish County Sheriff Adam Fortney. According to event organizer Amanda Sergoyan, the rally came after calls to defund the police, actions by school boards to remove school resource officers, and petitions to recall the county’s sheriff.

“I would encourage people to not be scared [to speak out] because there’s a lot more people coming to me that feel positively towards law enforcement and feel that they should not be attacked for upholding the constitutional rights,” said Sergoyan.

The rally consisted of about 100 Fortney supporters with others trickling in. Many of the supporters were carrying American flags, the Blue Line flag, campaign and homemade signs in support of Fortney and law enforcement. 

Adam Fortney
Rally to Support Sheriff Fortney and Local Law Enforcement on June 27, 2020 in Lake Stevens.

Originally, Sergoyan started this movement to support the Sheriff and his refusal to enforce the “Stay Home, Stay Healthy” order issued by Governor Jay Inslee. However, after calls to defund the police and various school boards ending their relationships with School Resource Officers, Sergoyan expanded her movement to include support for law enforcement.  

About 30 counter demonstrators, respectfully gathered at a distance with signs calling to Recall Sheriff Fortney.

Lisa Sleister attended to protest against Sheriff Fortney. “If he’s going to be in law enforcement he should abide by the laws and the regulations; if he doesn’t want to, he should get out of law enforcement.”

Adam Fortney
(L-R) Kari King, Phil Colling, and David Westberg at Rally to Support Sheriff Fortney and Local Law Enforcement on June 27, 2020 in Lake Stevens.

When asked what she thinks of the support for Fortney at the rally, Sleister replied, “Well, I think they should be flying their Confederate flags… I just think we each have a right to our own view… but don’t try to infringe on my health and my right to voice my opinion.”

The counter protestors were not able to provide the Lynnwood Times any new developments on the two recall petitions other than what was already known.

Fortney, is in his first term as sheriff after defeating incumbent Ty Trenary. Prior to becoming sheriff in January, Fortney was promoted to sergeant in 2014. Fortney was a member of the Sheriff’s Office for nearly 23 years and served in patrol, K-9, and SWAT.

Adam Fortney
Adam Fortney taking his oath of office on Monday, December 30, 2019 by Judge Anna Alexander.

Sheriff Fortney is currently facing one recall effort brought by Lori Shavlik and a second possible recall by the Committee to Recall Snohomish County Sheriff Adam Fortney. 

Lori Shavlik, a Snohomish County resident, filed the recall petition because of Fortney’s April 21 Facebook post in which Fortney wrote he would not enforce Governor Jay Inslee’s “Stay Home, Stay Healthy” order.

On May 15, Cowlitz County Superior Court Judge Stephen Warning ruled that this first recall effort can move forward.

In a May 15 Facebook post after Judge Warning ruled the recall effort could move forward, Fortney criticized her decision stating that an elected official can now be subject to recall for simply expressing a disagreement with the Governor.

“I stand by my statement that the Snohomish County Sheriff’s Office is not going to arrest people for a gross misdemeanor when they pray, go to church or express their views under the First Amendment,” he said. “When 2,000 people gathered at the Capitol to express their First Amendment rights, the governor responded, not with citations or arrests, but rather with statements that he ‘supports free speech’ and ‘welcomed’ the protestors. I share the governor’s respectful and reserved approach to enforcement.”

Currently, the second recall effort led by the Committee to Recall Snohomish County Sheriff Adam Fortney, is awaiting a judgment to move forward after Fortney’s attorneys filed an appeal with the Washington Supreme Court.

On June 12, San Juan County Superior Court Judge Kathryn Loring ruled that four of the five accusations of malfeasance presented by the Committee to Recall Snohomish County Sheriff Adam Fortney, can move forward on the recall petition.

According to the second petition, Sheriff Fortney refused to enforce Governor Inslee’s “Stay Home, Stay Healthy” order, instigated the public to disobey the Governor’s order, reinstated deputies who were fired by former Sheriff Ty Trenary, and failed to properly investigate misconduct committed by his deputies.

Registrants for the Committee to Recall Snohomish County Sheriff Adam Fortney are:  Public defender Colin McMahon, criminal defense attorney Samantha Sommerman, immigration attorney Terry Preshaw and civil attorney Brittany Tri.

The Washington Supreme Court has until July 13 to decide if the second recall effort can continue forward after which the recall efforts will have 180 days to gather the necessary signatures to put the petition on the ballot.

Article 1 Section 33 of the Washington Constitution says that a recall can only happen if the official engaged in the “commission of some act or acts of malfeasance or misfeasance while in office, or who has violated his oath of office.”

RCW 29A.56.180, in explaining the number of signatures required for a petition to get a recall on the next ballot, says: “In the case of a state officer, an officer of a city of the first class, a member of a school board in a city of the first class, or a county officer of a county with a population of forty thousand or more—signatures of legal voters equal to twenty-five percent of the total number of votes cast for all candidates for the office to which the officer whose recall is demanded was elected at the preceding election.”

Since Snohomish County has over 822,000 residents as of 2019, Fortney would be subject to this percentage. In the 2019 election, 177,973 ballots were cast in the Snohomish County Sheriff’s race, therefore, each petition would need to be signed by at least 44,494 registered voters.

On June 8, the Snohomish County Public Defender Association (SCADA) joined the nationwide protests to defund law enforcement agencies in the wake of police brutality against George Floyd, a Minneapolis man killed by an officer during an arrest.

The team of public defenders, private attorneys, legal professionals, and social workers had a specific request for the Snohomish County Council, demanding that the Snohomish County Sheriff’s Department be defunded, cutting the budget by 50% and reallocating funds towards social service agencies providing access to education, healthcare, mental health, housing, and youth services to invest in underlying factors that contribute to crime.

In a June 8 unscientific Facebook poll, 63% of 8,500 respondents voted to not reduce or defund law enforcement agencies budgets.

Defund Police Poll
Results from a Lynnwood Times June 8 Facebook poll.

Many supporters at the rally shared a common sentiment stating that defunding law enforcement is “ridiculous.”

“We’ll go into chaos… see what is happening in Seattle,” said Debbie Blodgett, a resident of the city of Snohomish.

Adam Fortney
Sheriff Adam Fortney speaking with supporters at Rally to Support Sheriff Fortney and Local Law Enforcement on June 27, 2020 in Lake Stevens.

The Lynnwood Times interviewed Sheriff Fortney at the rally who made an impromptu visit to thank residents for supporting law enforcement.

“I feel fantastic with the crowd, how can you not, it’s humbling. We kind of needed it right now. It’s been a rough couple of months.” Fortney said. “I think it’s reflective, generally speaking, of Snohomish County…they want to keep their law enforcement, they are supportive of law enforcement.”

When asked of his thoughts to the roughly 30 counter demonstrators, Fortney replied, “You saw both groups out here today. Constitutional rights are for everybody, so I’m proud to see the other side out here and our side.”

“I’d just like to point out, they have never sat down and talked with me. I have never met them face to face… they preach tolerance, they preach collaboration, they preach dialogue. I’m for all three. I think if we could get in a room and talk, I think it’d be a good thing.”

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