Politics from the Palouse to Puget Sound

Thursday, May 10, 2007

"Weatherly: More police officers will be needed"

From today's Moscow-Pullman Daily News:
Police chief begins evaluating department's current, future needs

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."
It 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?

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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7 comments:

April E. Coggins said...

Hilarious trip down memory lane. Which shall we take first to Wal-Mart? Judy Kruegers trolley or the magic hero bus with TV Reed driving and Chris Lupke as official hero and greeter?

Jim H said...

I know this is not the reason you posted this but I really question whether we need more police at all. In fact I think we have too many police in Pullman. First let me tell you where I am coming from I personally know 3 Pullman police officers and am acquainted with a few more, I have a great respect for what they do and the service they provide.

Here is the problem "(Our department) is significantly less (staffed) than cities our size." That size includes the entirety of the WSU student population. What they fail to mention is that the WSU population that is located on campus is also covered by the WSU Police Department. A quick check of the WSU website says the campus police have 18 officers, 10 more than Weatherly wants. I am under the impression that if need be that the WSU police can cross over into Pullman's jurisdiction.

I also find it interesting that the only other reason given for more police is that Pullman is growing. But is crime growing? Are we seeing an increase in DUI accidents? Are people disregarding the law and speeding all over town? Do people in Pullman feel unsafe? If an emergency happened would the police take a long time to respond? Are the police ignoring less serious crime because they are busy with all the felonies in Pullman? These are the reasons for more police not a simple population increase.

Growing up in Pullman I have been able to observe the Pullman police for a long time. I have seen them do some great things and help a lot of people. But I have also seen them hiding in bushes and behind trees waiting for who knows what. I am not anti-Police but I am against paying for more policing than is needed.

If it turns out that when you add the two police departments together and we still are “significantly less (staffed) than cities our size” I will change my tune. I am very curious what other peoples opinion are on this matter, maybe there are factors I am not seeing.

Barenjager said...

Jim,
I couldn't agree more.

April E. Coggins said...

Pullman is a difficult place to staff. We have wild, though predictable, swings in population. During a typical week, we are a sleepy and peaceful small town. But on football weekends, Mothers weekend, Pub Crawl weekends, etc., Pullman does not have enough police officers. The problem seems to be how the police occupy their time when it's not a big weekend. It's definitely better than it used to be.

Barenjager said...

April,
I agree with part of what you said and disagree with part. You are completely right in citing the cyclical nature of the need for policing and the need to adjust manpower. That doesn't meen we need more officers, though.

Since local law enforcement agencies have agreements that allow them to work in other jurisdictions, it's more a matter of smart scheduling and resource managment than need to pile on more resources. Check out the stadium on game day. You will see officers from Spokane patroling the area. WSU pays for those officers. If Pullman has a shortage during gamedays, it's because they are selling their services to WSU, not because the town suddenly got bigger.

April E. Coggins said...

As a business owner next to several watering holes, we experience more than our share of troubles on big weekends. Calls are made and the police must leave College Hill to respond to downtown. It's not the Spokane police, the Washington State Patrol or the Whitman County Sheriffs office who respond at one in the morning. The responders are the Pullman police and they are stretched too thin on big weekends. In case you haven't noticed, WSU lets Pullman take care of itself.

Mick G said...

I had to throw in my 2 cents and it is appropriate to note that my opinion is coming after the shooting in Moscow.

It only takes one major event on the Palouse to hamper first responders. Thank god for mutual aid. That night calls for service were going unanswered until Pullman, Whitman County and WSU crossed the boarder to help. If an event of that magnatude happened here Moscow and Latah County would be doing the same thing and they have -- re-run the riot in 1998.

Pullman and WSU combined is still below the national average. According to the Washington Attorney General this state is 50th in the nation for Officers per captia -- that's dead last!!

All the agencies on the Palouse could use more Officers. You have to remember that first responders are not only there for what will happen, they are there for what might happen.