Citizens urged to fight changes to police force

Letter to the Editor.

I wanted to address the issue of the city of Snoqualmie contemplating getting rid of the local Snoqualmie Police Department and contracting with the King County Sheriff’s Office (KCSO) as North Bend does.

The city of Snoqualmie is growing at a record pace. The city of North Bend has had a building moratorium in place for a couple years, I believe. They also do not house a violent juvenile detention facility as Snoqualmie does, from where there have been two escapes in the past year that I know of.

I realize that we are a bit top heavy on the number of officers we currently have, but let attrition take care of that and keep what we have. It is always poor management practice to try to come from behind, but for some reason, city government (OK, all government) constantly tries to do just that. Three years from now when Snoqualmie Ridge II is built and the KCSO is trying to meet the need for services but can’t, we might all be wondering what happened. Once you give something up, you never get it back.

And the level of service would continue to decline. What would happen to the state-of-the-art police facility that has already been built? The indoor shooting facility? The cars? Instead of getting rid of a very valuable asset, look at ways to cut the operating costs. Do we lease or buy our police cars? Does anyone get a take-home car? Can we do with less administrators and keep the working officers on our streets? What about the EOC that is housed there in the event of disaster?

I can tell you from talking to the officers who contract in other areas that they are spread too thin and response times are ridiculous. Perhaps the reason KCSO did not have answers or statistics when making their presentation to the council is because they know the stats will not reflect positively. It is not their fault, mind you, because contracting out for local police services is a business. One that is necessary for small towns like Carnation, Preston, Fall City, etc.

But we are already getting bigger, and will continue to for the foreseeable future. I, for one, as a Snoqualmie tax-paying citizen, don’t want to have to wait an hour or more for someone to show up if I need assistance. Even a property crime, such as a car prowl or property damage, is important to the victim. But when you are contracting police services, they fall really low on the totem pole.

We have come to enjoy, and expect, a level of service from Snoqualmie officers. They are ever present – rolling through the neighborhoods, stopping by the schools, enforcing laws and doing their job. According to the response-time stats published by KCSO for North Bend for mid 2004, you would have to wait at least 25 minutes for an officer to respond for a paper call. And for a priority-one call (in progress call), you are looking at almost 6 minutes! That is a lifetime if you are confronting a burglar in your home or are being assaulted.

A contracted officer can log over 350 miles in a single shift – that is a lot of travel and down time where they are only responding to calls – not proactively policing our neighborhoods. Police work should be proactive, not just reactive. There is a big difference.

I urge the city to think carefully about this. And I urge the citizens of Snoqualmie to fight to keep their police department.

Anna Emery