POULSBO — In an attempt to calm the storm surrounding a process study of the Poulsbo Police Department, Mayor Kathryn Quade clearly stated Wednesday the review doesn’t necessarily spell the last days of the department.
But the implication that it could was enough to bring dark clouds to city hall.
The study, which is being conducted by Miller & Miller, P.S. of Seattle, was actually touched off by the department itself and is a response to Poulsbo Police Chief Jeff Doran’s request for two additional officers and a sergeant in the city’s 2007 budget. The rest of the city’s departments were examined during a 2003 process study.
“It is my intention to look at all the options,” Quade said. Those options include the possibility of contracting with the Kitsap County Sheriff’s Office for police services in Poulsbo.
However, Shawn Ziemann, president of the Poulsbo Police Officers Association, said he and his fellow officers aren’t so sure.
“It is our opinion that this is what she wants to do,” Ziemann said of contracting with the KCSO.
Since the KCSO has the opportunity to examine the costs of the city maintaining its own department before submitting its contract proposal, Ziemann said the sheriff’s office would have an unfair advantage in any negotiations.
But a reticent Quade assured officers and the public the goal of the study is not to find an excuse to eliminate the department, but rather to improve its effectiveness and efficiency as the city continues its growth.
“That (contracting with KCSO) is my least preferred option, but I would be remiss in my responsibility to the citizens if I didn’t examine all of the options,” she said. “It is not my intention to get rid of them.”
Quade said she has a great deal of respect for the job the Poulsbo Police Department does and that the process study is not meant as a criticism of their performance.
Doran said he feels most of his officers don’t have a problem with the process study itself, but rather the mention of possibly contracting the services out to the county.
“Improving efficiencies in our department is something that everybody wants,” he said.
If the possibility of contracting the city’s police services to the county hadn’t been included in the study, Doran said he feels there wouldn’t have been as much hubbub at all.
Even with that controversy Kitsap County Sheriff Steve Boyer said he believes the idea has potential.
“Poulsbo is a great department, and I think the Poulsbo Police Department would benefit,” Boyer said.
Contract policing is a nationwide trend that has made strong inroads in the state, and 40 percent of the cities in King County contract with the King County Sheriff’s Office for police services, he said.
When Silverdale is finally incorporated, Boyer said he expects his department will be tasked with providing its police services, so the idea of doing the same for Poulsbo isn’t a foreign one.
Even though the city currently enjoys a great relationship with the KCSO in several cooperative law enforcement ventures, Quade said she supports local control of services whenever possible.
“We’re not just going to ask if we can save a buck or two, but rather what is the most efficient way we can serve our citizen,” she said.
That “way” might include adding more officers to the PPD or contracting those services with the county, but Quade said she has no preconceived idea as to what the final results of the study will be.
“The core issue is do we have the maximum police services, so citizens can enjoy peace and safety,” Boyer said. This may or may not be in having the city contract with the KCSO, but it should be explored, he said.
“It’s the city council’s call. We just want to do what’s right for our citizens,” Boyer said.
The department’s number of requests for service have steadily increased over the past three years from 11,229 in 2005 to 13,374 in 2006, so the worst case Doran said he sees is that the consultant would recommend not adding additional officers.
The number of cases handled by the department also jumped from about 1,600 in 2005 to almost 2,000 in 2006, marking a 25 percent increase in one year alone. The department also made 831 arrests in 2006 compared to 539 in 2005.
As the study continues, Quade offered one piece of advice for all those involved: “It’s an analytical analysis, and we need to let it happen.”