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Snoqualmie police make case to stay

SNOQUALMIE - The long- awaited presentation on the Snoqualmie Police Department by chief Jim Schaffer was met with a standing ovation Monday.

At the request of the City Council, Schaffer outlined who the police are, how they are involved in the community, the services they provide and what steps they have taken and plan to take to save money.

The Snoqualmie Police Department is a full-time, 24-hour department with two officers per patrol shift. The Snoqualmie police force consists of 13 full-time commissioned police officers. There are no part-time employees. The officers that make up the department have an average of 10 years of experience.

The department responds to any and all calls for service within two to five minutes, Schaffer said.

Some basic police services include traffic enforcement, business and house checks, bicycle patrol, motorcycle patrol, swift water rescue, DUI emphasis, traffic and speed education and more.

Officer Larry Warren wears many hats at the department, serving as evidence custodian, marijuana identification technician, home detentions monitoring supervisor, jail coordinator and court liaison.

The department is involved with the community through Neighborhood Watch, child safety, crime prevention for seniors, commercial security, emergency preparedness, educational school events and other programs. The department also takes part in "fun" community events such as Kids Day America, Little League and Relay for Life.

Special police services include fire/arson investigation, major crimes investigation, clandestine lab identification and response, hostage negotiations and special operations. The department's special operations team of 19 officers from the Snoqualmie and Issaquah police departments was established to help defer operation costs and provide immediate response to critical high-risk situations. Schaffer pointed out the King County Sheriff's Office outsources its special operations services for about $1,190 per hour.

The department also saves money through sharing costs for things like training through the Coalition of Small Police Agencies, which is made up of 14 small local cities such as Issaquah, Duvall and Carnation. The group finds ways to provide alternatives to the high cost of King County services. The coalition provides manpower and equipment for many services including helicopter, crowd control and interpreters. It also shares costs for training resources. Some recent examples of special training needs have included "active shooter," which is needed in situations like the Columbine School shooting.

Corporate and public donations have also made a difference n costs for the department.

The department has received a wide range of expensive equipment through a state and federal surplus program. The department only pays a few hundred dollars per year to be in the program and gets "a ton of equipment," Schaffer said. The department has been able to obtain more than $83,000 in equipment through the program.

To date, the police department has procured about $60,910 in grant money, with which it's been able to fund many programs and equipment purchases.

In recent years, the department established a home detention program, which keeps less-dangerous criminals confined to their homes rather than going to prison. In 2004 the department saved $25,000 in jail costs through the program.

In a cost-for-service comparison, Schaffer showed that under North Bend's flex plan with the KCSO, police services account for 27.5 percent of the city's general fund. North Bend has 6.3 commissioned officers and spends $193,358 per officer. The Snoqualmie Police Department currently accounts for 24.6 percent of Snoqualmie's general fund. Snoqualmie has 13 officers and spends $166,278 per officer.

Schaffer's final analysis in the presentation was that the police department is reducing the percentage of the general fund used on a yearly basis and is now near or below the average of most cities and will continue to decline as the general fund increases.

Mark Calvert was one of a handful of residents who got up to comment following the presentation.

"You could not put together a better team from what I saw in the presentation," he said.

During the May 23 regular council meeting Councilman Greg Fullington will present the information he has researched on police services to the council at a special roundtable from 6-7 p.m. at the Snoqualmie fire station at 37600 S.E. Snoqualmie Parkway.

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