County makes police pitch to Snoqualmie

SNOQUALMIE - Citizens packed the March 28 Snoqualmie City Council meeting to hear a presentation on contract police services from the King County Sheriff's Office (KCSO), but very few were moved to comment.

Though recent talk of looking into police contract services with the county hit a vein with residents, some felt Monday's much anticipated presentation delivered few of the details they were looking for.

"I thought the [City Council] had some questions [KCSO] didn't prepare well for," said Karen Harrelson, a Snoqualmie resident. "They didn't have any information regarding the breakdown of response times and community satisfaction based on type of service. They just lumped everybody into one. They should of had that info."

KCSO Chief Denise Turner and KCSO Captain Jim Graddon made the presentation that emphasized the city's role in setting the priorities for contract services, the city's freedom to nearly custom build their police services through a KCSO contract and the partnership between KCSO and municipalities.

The 40-minute presentation relayed general information with little focus on what contract services in Snoqualmie would specifically entail.

"We fully recognize this is a discovery process, a learning process," said Graddon. "We didn't sculpt the presentation to anticipate what structure the city would want - that can be determined down the road."

Graddon said every three years KCSO surveys each of its contract communities' satisfaction with KCSO services and that most seem "satisfied" or "very satisfied."

As for the widely-debated response time of KCSO contract officers, Graddon said that too can be up to the individual cities.

"Cities choose their staffing levels, which affect the average response times to resident calls," he said.

Graddon mentioned some of the "highlights" of contract service with KCSO, including KCSO's full responsibility of all liability of police officers' actions; managing all personnel issues, including standards of performance and discipline; handling of labor negotiations; recruiting; etc., and a cost model "designed to achieve full cost recovery."

Three different models offered by the KCSO correlate to varying levels of contract service.

"The contract offers a variety of options, not a one size fits all approach," Graddon said. "It can't be emphasized enough that our priority is to meet local expectations.

Asked about what would happen to outgoing Snoqualmie police officers should the city choose to go with KCSO, Graddon said "there are some provisions for officers who are replaced, but we don't want to get too far ahead of anyone in this presentation."

Turner said the KCSO is very mindful of each city's resources. "If you have a dedicated officer, we want them to stay in your city," she said.

Graddon said whether a city's chief, assistant chief or sergeants stay "could be part of negotiations."

Councilman Charles Peterson asked Graddon for four ways in which KCSO services are superior to those of the Snoqualmie Police Department. But the KCSO representatives didn't come to compare muscles.

"I don't know. I haven't studied what [Snoqualmie] Chief [Jim] Schaffer has," Graddon said.

"We're partners," Turner said. "We're not here to sell anything or to make ourselves look better."

Some residents felt the only thing KCSO would bring to the table is an economic solution. Larry Zanella, a Snoqualmie resident, said KCSO made a "nice" presentation, but overall he wasn't impressed.

"[The Snoqualmie Police Department] is the best I've ever seen anywhere I've lived," Zanella said. "Part of the reason people live here is the outstanding police department. I don't for a minute think we would have the same quality of service."

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