Contrary to implications last year that the city of Enumclaw's budget for 2012 was skeletal enough that a tax rollback would and streets, there appears that enough money does exist now to fund a police officer position.
City administrator Mike Thomas told the City Council during Monday's workshop that staff was targeting several sources to support a six-month funding scenario for one officer in which police chief Jim Zoll said would cost about $90,000.
They include a portion of a $270,000 difference between revenues and expenditures for this year's budget and savings from new labor contracts that have not yet been quantified. "There are sufficient funds in the budget to add an officer," he said.
According to Zoll, the position has been frozen since 2004 when at the same time, a separate position was entirely eliminated.
Zoll, along with Lt. Bob Huebler, told council the department needed to unfreeze the position so that current staffing problems could be ameliorated, particularly as calls for service increase. With only 12 officers -- including three sargeants -- available to respond to calls, the department needs help to continue adequate staffing 24 hours a day and to fill vacancies from vacations and injuries.
Zoll indicated that often, he along with Huebler and detectives are covering officers who are responding to calls and the consequence is that a lot of administrative work falls behind, particularly as there have been an increase in public information requests as well as litigation. For the officers themselves, there has been a noticeable increase in DUI and domestic violence calls, which takes them out of commission while they see an arrest process through and write up reports.
Compounding the staffing issue is concern that imminent state cuts will adversely affect law enforcement, jails, prosecutors and courts, said Zoll. Gov. Chris Gregoire, in her 2012 supplemental budget (see public safety section), is proposing to cut supervision for sex offenders from 36 months to 24 months and all others from a range of 12 to 36 months down to just 12 months. "This means putting career criminals and repeat offenders on the streets sooner," Zoll said, and it's more work for the police department as well as the community.
There are also proposed cuts for drug and alcohol rehabilitation programs which has a direct correlation to the numbers of mental health cases like DUIs and domestic violence incidents, which are time-consuming for officers to process and already increasing.
Huebler reported that between 2009 and 2011, there were 120 DUI arrests. In 2003, that number was between 50 and 60.
Police need the position unfrozen not for one or two reasons but "it's the totality of many changing circumstances," Zoll said.
Just One is Fine for Now
While additional officer positions are welcome as the city deals with population growth and annexation, for the immediate future, the one officer position will be adequate in addressing these public safety and staffing concerns, said Zoll.
Councilmember Kevin Mahelona suggested that since funds were available, a budget amendment should be forthcoming to make the position funding possible. Thomas indicated that would be forthcoming.
Councilmembers Sean Krebs and Jim Hogan asked Zoll for a standard for levels of service, akin to the fire department's 2-in-2-out rule, as it would help inform future decisions with regards to police department's staffing needs.
Hogan said he was sure one officer wasn't enough to handle the changing dynamic of crime in the community. "I think we need more officers...we need to justify it somehow."
Zoll said staff could put together something this year but they need to review what methodology to use to determine service levels.
City attorney Mike Reynolds pointed out that past methodologies relied on population, as in 'one officer per xx population,' but the current increases in crimes like DUIs, domestic violence, property damage and thefts aren't population-related -- they're economy-related.
People are frustrated with not being able to pay bills and other effects of a lagging economy and are acting out, he said.
Assuming the budget amendment passes without delay and the hiring process can begin for a lateral officer, the department could have a new officer on the streets as early as August, Thomas said.
After the six months of funding is over, there would still be money to continue to support the position, said Thomas, assuming there is no further roll back of the city tax levy rate that some taxpayers have asked about pertaining to a potential annexation of the city library into King County Library System (KCLS). (Read more)