Issaquah police trade blue for red to brighten Christmas for families

December 25, 2012

Officer swaps blue uniform for red suit to play Santa

Santa Claus delivers gifts to 7-year-old Blanca Gomez and 6-year-old Sergio Gomez Jr. as the Issaquah Police Department delivers Christmas gifts to local families Dec. 19. By Jacqueline Kerness/Issaquah Police Department

Santa Claus traded the sleigh for a police SUV not long before Christmas.

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Issaquah Police Department to add patrol officer

December 11, 2012

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.

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King County voters renew levy for police fingerprint services

November 8, 2012

NEW — 5 p.m. Nov. 8, 2012

King County voters overwhelmingly approved a $118.9 million property tax levy to continue funding criminal fingerprint identification services for local law enforcement agencies, including the Issaquah Police Department.

Proposition 1 asked voters to keep the Automated Fingerprint Identification System, or AFIS, in operation through 2018. The system provides criminal fingerprint identification services to the King County Sheriff’s Office and other local law enforcement agencies.

The proposed renewal levy rate is 5.92 cents per $1,000 of assessed valuation, or about $20.72 per year for a $350,000 home.

Issaquah officers used information from AFIS 2,100 times last year to determine if a jail inmate was evading a warrant, concealing a criminal record or using a false identity.

Investigators use the AFIS database to match fingerprints and palmprints to criminal suspects. The system is managed by the sheriff’s office.

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Cyberbullying crackdown is priority for sheriff’s office

October 23, 2012

King County Sheriff’s Office investigators could soon crack down on cyberbullying, after the King County Council approved a motion introduced by Issaquah-area Councilman Reagan Dunn.

Reagan Dunn

Cyberbullying is the use of information and technology to support deliberate, repeated and hostile behavior. The crime exploded in recent years due to the prevalence of social media services, and gained national attention last year after classmates targeted a then-12-year-old Issaquah girl online.

Dunn said cyberbullying is increasingly a concern for law enforcement agencies.

“In recent months, all across the country, we have seen tragedies unfold as a result of cyberbullying,” he said in a statement. “This motion will allow the sheriff’s office to study this issue thoroughly and ensure King County has a plan to deal with any of these troubling bullying trends.”

(Dunn represents rural areas south of Issaquah and Newcastle on the council.)

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Next King County sheriff faces tough decisions to reform agency

October 16, 2012

The contest to lead the King County Sheriff’s Office could hinge on a series of audits into how the agency operates.

The sheriff oversees a budget of about $150 million and about 1,000 employees, and leads the largest local police organization in the state after the Seattle Police Department.

John Urquhart

Steve Strachan

The contentious race pits Sheriff Steve Strachan, a former Kent police chief, against John Urquhart, a former sheriff’s office sergeant and spokesman.

King County Council members appointed Strachan as sheriff in April, not long after former Sheriff Sue Rahr resigned to lead the Washington State Criminal Justice Training Commission, or state police academy.

Though the election is to fill the Rahr’s unexpired term through 2013, the next sheriff faces a landmark effort to reform the agency in response to audits critical of policies put into place under Strachan’s predecessors.

Strachan, a SeaTac resident, served as a police chief and state legislator in Minnesota before accepting the Kent post in 2006. In the Minnesota Legislature, he helped pass legislation to reduce the blood-alcohol limit to 0.08 percent. Rahr tapped Strachan as the chief deputy, or No. 2 spot, at the sheriff’s office in early 2011.

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King County voters to decide dollars for crime-fighting tool in Proposition 1

October 16, 2012

King County voters could decide to approve a $118.9 million property tax levy next month to continue funding criminal fingerprint identification services for local law enforcement agencies.

The proposal on the Nov. 6 ballot, Proposition 1, aims to keep the Automated Fingerprint Identification System, or AFIS, in operation through 2018. The system provides criminal fingerprint identification services to law enforcement agencies throughout the county, including the Issaquah Police Department.

The proposed renewal levy rate is 5.92 cents per $1,000 of assessed valuation, or about $20.72 per year for a $350,000 home.

Local leaders and law enforcement officials throughout the county, including the Issaquah City Council and Issaquah Police Chief Paul Ayers, endorsed the levy renewal.

Issaquah officers used information from AFIS 2,100 times last year to determine if a jail inmate was evading a warrant, concealing a criminal record or using a false identity.

Voters approved the initial AFIS levy in 1986, and overwhelmingly renewed the levy since then, most recently in 2006.

Issaquah police protect and serve — Red Robin burgers

October 16, 2012

Issaquah Deputy Police Chief Steve Cozart serves diners during the Tip-a-Cop fundraiser Oct. 14 at Red Robin.By Jacqueline Kerness/Issaquah Police Department

Issaquah police officers donned aprons to protect and serve — meals, that is — for the annual Tip-a-Cop fundraiser.

Officers served burgers, fries and more to diners Oct. 13 at Red Robin. Tips collected by the Issaquah Police Department benefit Special Olympics Washington.

Issaquah and Snoqualmie officers at the local Red Robin raised about $6,000.

During the event, police officers — alongside Special Olympics athletes and restaurant employees — served patrons and collected donations. Special Olympics Washington provides year-round sports training and athletic competition in Olympic-type sports for children and adults with intellectual disabilities.

The fundraiser encompassed local police departments throughout Washington. Snoqualmie officers joined Issaquah officers at Red Robin for the event.

The task is more difficult to some officers than routine traffic stops and crime-fighting tasks.

“I am not a good server,” Issaquah Police Chief Paul Ayers joked. “It is a very hard job, and each time I do it, I have more respect for the people who do it on a regular basis.”

The gig doubles as a community outreach effort for the police.

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Uncertainty clouds debate over marijuana legalization measure, Initiative 502

September 25, 2012

Marijuana sits in a jar held by Lydia George in 2011 at GreenLink Collective. File

GreenLink Collective, a medical marijuana operation along Northwest Gilman Boulevard, reshaped attitudes and policies about marijuana in Issaquah last year, as patients and officials engaged in a long debate about access to a drug banned under federal law.

In November, Washington voters could further redraw the battle lines in the marijuana debate. Initiative 502 aims to legalize, regulate and tax marijuana for recreational users. The proposal goes a step beyond a 1998 measure to legalize medical marijuana in Washington and could set a national precedent.

The initiative calls for sales at state-licensed stores of up to 1 ounce of marijuana — grown by state-licensed farmers. Marijuana-related tax revenue could pump as much as $1.9 billion into state coffers, if the federal government does not intervene.

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State policy change dings county jails, but not Issaquah facility

September 11, 2012

Officials said a recent change in state policy means fewer inmates in King County-run jails — and $9.4 million less for county jails next year due to fewer bookings from the state Department of Corrections.

King County officials said the drop contributes to a projected $13 million shortfall next year in revenues to support operations at the King County Jail in Seattle and the Maleng Regional Justice Center in Kent. The shortfall could lead officials to eliminate 40 or more positions in the proposed 2013 jail budget.

The state corrections agency contracts with the county to house thousands of felons released from prison who then violated their conditions of release. The so-called “DOC violators” go back to jail to await administrative hearings.

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Shootings, election politics contribute to rise in gun sales

September 4, 2012

Police said recent mass shootings, and a superheated presidential election campaign, contributed to a rise in handgun-license requests to local law enforcement agencies.

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