Issaquah Police Department to add patrol officer

December 11, 2012

By Warren Kagarise

Expect to see more police patrolling city streets next summer, after the City Council agreed to include dollars in the 2013 municipal budget for the Issaquah Police Department to hire another officer.

The council agreed in the $42 million general fund budget to hire another police officer and a part-time records staffer for the police department. The agency expects to fill both positions after July 1.

The general fund encompasses the dollars used to fund police and fire services, community development and planning, parks and recreation, and municipal government. The police department is the largest expense in the general fund — encompassing more than $8 million — followed by parks and recreation.

But, due to the lean economy, police department officials’ annual requests for another patrol officer bumped into the difficult economy in past years.

“We’ve been working on this since I’ve been here, but with the understanding that the whole nation just went through a financial situation, and Issaquah wasn’t safe from that,” Police Chief Paul Ayers said after the council passed the 2013 city budget. “We had to set it on the back burner until we were finally able to get into a position where there was some funding to support that.”

The agency employs 32 officers, including 20 patrol officers. The department last added a patrol officer after Issaquah annexed the Greenwood Point and South Cove neighborhoods in 2006.

The planned addition is “going to help us continue to provide a high quality of service with the population growth that we’ve been experiencing over the last few years,” Ayers said.

Issaquah is home to more than 31,000 residents, and as the population increased in recent years, police department officials attempted to maintain a decent ratio of officers to residents.

Though no ideal measure exists, many agencies rely on the ratio of 1 officer per 1,000 residents, although in a low-crime community such as Issaquah, police respond to fewer major incidents.

“When you look at trying to come up with the perfect staffing model, there isn’t one,” Ayers said. “There are some guidelines, and this 1 per 1,000 has been tossed around for years and years, but it’s also known that it is not the best way to measure officers, just because you have to look at your community.”

Once the police department hires another patrol officer, he or she must undergo a 14-week field training program to learn the agency’s policies and procedures for firearms, first aid, pursuit driving and more.

The officer must then spend at least a year on patrol before he or she can apply for specialized roles, such as the regional special operations team or as a school resource officer.

If the police department hires a rookie, he or she must attend the 17-week state police academy before serving and undergoing the 14-week field training program.

The department spends about $5,000 to equip each officer with a bulletproof vest, handgun and rifle, uniforms and other equipment.

“There are dollars and cents attached to bullets and time and all of those things,” Ayers said.

Officials characterized the decision to add a patrol officer as a way to maintain the quality of life for residents.

Overall, city leaders refrained from dipping deeply into the rainy day fund in the 2013 municipal budget. City Finance Director Diane credited past spending reductions for the stable finances.

“We have been fortunate through previous austerity programs and a lot of efficiencies that the departments have undertaken in order to preserve financial resources for the future,” she said in a Dec. 3 presentation to the council.

The budget does not reduce services or increase the property tax rate. The spending plan maintains existing water and storm water rates for Issaquah customers, but the amount residents pay for sewer service is due to increase, after a King County decision to hike the rate.

“This 2013 budget is a balanced budget, which is very important,” Marcotte said. “At the federal government level, we all know that there is some difficulty there, but at the local level, we’re very responsive to managing our fiscal resources and ensuring the long-term financial stability of our community.”

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