How we shared our story

The Snohomish County Sheriff’s Office used video to give community members a 'boots on the ground's perspective of policing


By Sheriff Adam Fortney

2020 has been one of the most challenging years for law enforcement and our communities nationwide, and it was no different for the Snohomish County Sheriff’s Office.

In addition to the current challenges, we are a new Sheriff administration that took office on January 1 of this year. In just 10 months, the challenges we have faced during this time and throughout a global pandemic have tested our leadership in ways we never anticipated.

Tell our story

In our community locally, I felt there was a need to “tell our story” and share the noble profession of law enforcement and the positive role law enforcement plays in our society, as well as push back against calls to defund our office by 50% during budget deliberations at the county level.

We wanted to find a way to educate both our elected leaders and our local community members on what resources we currently have and how we allocate our current budget. We chose to use the video format to try and accomplish this as we felt this had the potential to be the most impactful and reach the widest audience. 

One of the conversations that pushed me in this direction occurred at a roll call I attended at our south precinct earlier this year. 

When I attend roll calls, I always open the floor to questions, and I encourage a true respectful back and forth dialogue. 

As with many sheriff’s offices across the nation, we are constantly advocating for additional staff and have had the same conversation now for decades and there have not been any significant staffing changes within our agency. Being a new Sheriff, I received a question from a deputy about staffing that went something like this: “Sheriff, we have been talking about our staffing issues for decades here and nothing seems to change. Now that you are sheriff and you are also talking about staffing, what are you going to do that is any different than the sheriffs who came before you?” 

At that moment while I stood in front of that patrol crew, I didn’t have a perfect answer for the deputy, but since that day I have given it a lot of thought. 

One main difference is that I have decided to tell “our story” to the community in a way that has never been done before. 

Boots on the ground perspective

Within the sheriff’s office we talk about these issues every day and we live and breathe them constantly, but the communities we serve don’t have the opportunity to see this profession from a “boots on the ground” perspective. I believe that the communities we serve deserve to know what we do every day, how we allocate our resources and what each of our units does, and they also deserve to know the real impacts to safety services if funding for law enforcement is cut.

I felt our community in Snohomish County needed to know what we accomplish every single day in patrol, investigations, search and rescue and corrections is bordering on miraculous given even our current funding and staffing limitations. I wanted an outlet to tell our story and educate our community on what their sheriff’s office employees are doing each and every day. This is what led us to the idea of working with videographers who could help us accomplish this. 

Following our decision to make a video, we reached out to a local production company who had previously created videos for another law enforcement agency in our county.

We met with their two-person team and shared our ideas and vision for telling our story to our community members. We created a written storyboard that highlighted some of our specialty units (Search and Rescue, Major Crimes, Special Investigations...) as well as highlighted the daily work occurring inside our corrections bureau.

We realized that a lot of what seems like everyday work or routine to us, may not be known by our community that we serve.

From here our vision became a reality. The production company was able to take our written notes and turn it into a visual story that both impacted and educated our audience.

To date, the video has received over 75,000 views and we have received a lot of positive feedback from our community – including a lot of people thanking us for providing so much information as they were unaware of the various units and job duties within each one.  



About the author

Sheriff Adam Fortney was sworn in as Snohomish County’s 32nd Sheriff on December 30, 2019. Sheriff Fortney has been a member of the sheriff’s office for nearly 24 years, working in patrol, K-9 and SWAT. He was promoted to sergeant in 2014 and his most recent assignment was to the south precinct graveyard shift, one of the busiest crews in the county.

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