POULSBO — The looming showdown over the future of the Poulsbo Police Department came to a sudden end Wednesday night as the city council voted unanimously to no longer explore the option of contracting out police services to the Kitsap County Sheriff’s Office.
That possibility was part of a process study of the department approved by the council to provide a framework for improving its overall efficiency as Police Chief Jeff Doran prepares to retire at the end of March.
Mayor Kathryn Quade, who included the contracting option in the original scope of work for the study, suggested the Request for Proposal with the KCSO be removed and a cost estimate be put in its place.
However, that wasn’t enough for Councilwoman Connie Lord, who said that all references to the KCSO should be removed from the contract.
When the council approved the $20,000 contract for the process study, the understanding was that it would be similar to the 2003 review of the other city departments, Lord said.
“The process study is being done for economic information and is not in any way going to give police services to the county,” Quade said as more than 60 people filled the council chambers.
The Save the Poulsbo Police Department group, which was formed Jan. 22 in response to the process study, presented more than 1,600 signatures in support of the department.
“Looking outside to anybody but ourselves for police services is not an option,” Lord said. “I never in my wildest dreams thought of allowing this.”
In response, Quade argued that the city should at least get a cost estimate from the sheriff’s office for what it would take to provide comparable services to the city.
“We would not be doing our jobs if we didn’t look at all the options,” Quade said.
But Councilmen Mike Regis and Jeff McGinty countered that the focus of the process study should solely be on the police department and not include the sheriff’s office in any way, shape or form.
“It did not go in my mind anywhere except to our police department,” Regis said.
McGinty said he, too, believed the process study was like the 2003 review and pointed out the potential dangers of including the KCSO option.
“Having that might cause officers to be less open and willing to talk,” McGinty said. “That would cause the study not to be effective.”
After listening to Lord, Regis and McGinty state their cases, Councilmen Ed Stern and Dale Rudolph suggested that the study include cost comparisons to cities similar to Poulsbo.
“We need to get cost estimates from comparable police operations. I think we can take the contracting out of it,” Rudolph said.
In the past, Poulsbo has reviewed contracting out services such as solid waste, but has elected to keep them, Stern said.
“It is one way to give us a yardstick, so we can see how we compare,” Stern said.
While the senior council members appeared willing to seek cost comparisons, the city’s newest council member Kimberlee Crowder said she didn’t want that included in the study, either.
“I understand the process study, but I don’t see that it needs to be in that realm,” Crowder said.
In the end, with the majority of the council agreeing to include the cost comparisons and eliminating any references to contracting with the KCSO, reaction from the throngs of supporters was positive.
“I thank you, everyone on council and the mayor for your leadership tonight,” said Poulsbo Police Officer Daniel LaFrance. “I was proud beforehand, and I’m even prouder now.”