Officer to be posted at Poulsbo schools

The Poulsbo City Council has approved a plan to place a police officer in North Kitsap schools.

POULSBO — It’s been long discussed around Poulsbo City Hall, but the City Council made it official March 18 and approved an agreement with the North Kitsap School District to place a police officer in its schools.

The council also approved a variety of budget changes for the police department to support the new officer.

But the move didn’t come without tension on the dais.

Council members Ed Stern and David Musgrove abstained from voting on financial changes in the budget for the police department — changes that would support funding the school resource officer. Councilwoman Connie Lord voted in favor of the officer, saying, “reluctantly, aye.”

With four votes in favor and two abstentions, the council approved the financial portion of the issue. The interlocal agreement with the school district passed unanimously.

“We all support [the officer] completely,” Musgrove said. “This has nothing to do with the school resource officer, it’s about the process.”

He added, “The purpose behind abstaining was to ensure that the school resource officer would be approved by the council. I did not want to place a ‘no’ vote on that. But I did not want to condone how it’s being done from a financial perspective.”

Musgrove said he felt uneasy about making budget decisions outside of the annual budget process. He said that when the council makes decisions for one department out of cycle, it could be viewed as unfairly favoring one department’s needs.

“So we do our best to resist things out of cycle in order to give everything a fair shot with the limited budget that we have,” Musgrove said.

The agreement with the school district states that the district will pay 25 percent of the officer’s salary for the first year, then 37.5 percent of the officer’s pay the second year. By the third year, the cost of the officer will be split evenly between the district and city.

The funding for the officer from the city’s side is part of a reorganization of the police department, a project of Police Chief Alan Townsend to streamline the department and save money. The reorganization includes canceling prosecution services with the county and providing them in-house. It also combines court officer services with the City of Bremerton, an agreement that has yet to be approved.

The Poulsbo Police Department and the North Kitsap School District previosly had a program that placed a police officer in local schools. That program was canceled in 2008 because of tightening budgets as the economy slumped.

But as school shootings have been on the rise nationwide, and after police have been called to Poulsbo schools for a gun threat and a lock down over the past year, discussion of providing a police presence in district schools began.

The new school officer will have an office at a Poulsbo school and work solely in the district during the school year. The officer will be placed on patrol during the summer.