Police chief begins evaluating department's current, future needsIt is important to note that the College Hill Association is basically PARD under another guise. And PARD, as you know, has claimed that Wal-Mart will drive up policing costs by bringing the "undesirable social classes" to town. So isn't it deliciously ironic that the PARDners themselves are the ones now partly responsible for driving up policing costs?
Pullman Police Chief Ted Weatherly would have eight new officers suited up for patrols as soon as possible if he had his way.
Weatherly said his officers are able to handle all of the city's present law enforcement needs, but with increasing development, a growing population and the possibility of increased enrollment at Washington State University, his staff will need to grow - and soon.
"We're not in a crisis yet, and my job is to make sure that we don't get into a crisis," he said. "But we're pretty close. We're at the limit right now."
During the next several months, Weatherly and his staff will conduct a comprehensive evaluation of Pullman police staffing and analyze the community's needs and the department's capabilities. The study is expected to determine whether more officers are necessary and how more positions would be funded.
The report, which will provide an eight- to 10-year plan for the department's staffing needs, will be presented to the Pullman City Council in August.
"This will give the council a blueprint for the present and the future," he said. "This will say if we need (more officers), why we need them and what they'll be doing."
With the completion of recent studies - such as the College Hill neighborhood study, which encouraged more officers on the hill for both beat patrols and parking enforcement - Weatherly said he realized his already-thin staff may become more stressed as the city grows and law enforcement demands increase. A College Hill parking study also suggested the addition of another parking enforcement officer.
"We've been reactive to that," he said of increasing needs on College Hill. "But some of the problems on College Hill are emerging on other hills, too."
It could take several years to get new officers in place. Weatherly said the department can't train more than three officers at a time because of necessary police academy requirements, field training and an effort to not burn out officers who provide the training.
"That's not going to be easy," he said. "We're going to look at what we can do within reason."
The cooperative roles between the city police and the Washington State University Police Department will be analyzed in the report, as well as the Pullman Police Department's jurisdiction and needs with that of similar-sized cities.
The last time the department was compared with similar communities, it "did not meet what is considered the national standard," Weatherly said. "(Our department) is significantly less (staffed) than cities our size."
Through conversations with representatives from the Better Neighborhoods of Pullman and the Associated Students of Washington State University, Weatherly said there is an increasing demand for the department to step up its presence in parking enforcement, working with fraud cases, traffic incidents and community support.
The Pullman Police Department has 28 officers, which includes Weatherly, Cmdr. Chris Tennant and four sergeants. During busy weekends, such as Washington State University football games, up to six officers are out on emphasis patrols. Most days, two officers patrol all of Pullman.
"You divide that between three shifts, (and) you don't have a lot of officers," Weatherly said. "If it was a perfect world, we'd have a lot of officers."
Weatherly said he's trying his best to not have a short staff affect service. Emergency response times have not been affected, but in regard to issues like parking his officers can't be everywhere all the time.
"It's affecting service, but not dramatically. We try to do as good a service as we can," he said. "My goal is to make sure that the community doesn't lose their quality of life as far as policing goes."
The Pullman Police Department last increased staff in 2001, when three officers and a police operations commander were added to the squad. The additions followed the 1998 riot on College Hill.
Weatherly said he hopes the report will provided a solid plan of action for the future of Pullman's policing needs.
"It's kind of like a comprehensive plan. I'd refer to it as a strategic staffing plan for police. The idea is to take a wholistic approach to the staffing in the police department," he said. "As the community grows, how are we going to (deal with) that? This is what you're going to have to look at. We're going to look at all elements."
As far as where the funding for these new officers will come from, it won't be from the College Hill Association. Nope, those positions will be paid for by that behemoth one-stop mall called Wal-Mart. I quote now from "Economic & Fiscal Impacts of Wal-Mart Supercenter Development in Pullman, Washington"
To the extent that the Wal-Mart Supercenter increases the marginal need for new capital facilities (police precinct location, vehicle maintenance facilities, fire station, trucks, etc.), Pullman may require capital facilities expansion to the extent that existing investment does not have capacity. To the extent that the City would require capital facilities expansion or additional operational costs, expected tax revenue generation by the project will be enough to off-set those costs.It is also important to note the need for increased police officers, and the need for a traffic light at the intersection of Bishop and Klemgard have been identified BEFORE WAL-MART HAS EVEN TURNED ONE SHOVEL OF EARTH. Pullman is growing, like it or not, and we can't keep on exporting our retail dollars to the Internet or Moscow, as TV Reed recommends. We must have the retail sales tax infrastructure to support our development.
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