Thank you for supporting public safety. Voter approval of annexation to Fire District 3 not only protects Fire/EMS services in Battle Ground, it supports your Police Department with additional funding to maintain and increase the services you expect.
The City made a promise to the community to increase funding for the police department starting in 2021 if annexation was approved. Specifically, the City committed to an additional $550,000 annually to fund additional police officers for increased traffic patrol, investigations, proactive policing, community outreach and re-implementation of the K-9 program.
I am excited to tell you about what we have already accomplished this year and our plans for 2021. We intend to keep our promises and we are well on our way.
First, with the annexation approved and funding assured, we were able to move forward with filling two existing police officer positions that had been vacated. We increased our recruiting efforts and were successful in hiring officers for both positions.
Officer Ashley Kinlaw is a lateral hire, an experienced police officer from Delaware with extensive knowledge and skills in traffic enforcement and investigations. He has completed the WA State Equivalency Academy and our local field training program. He is currently serving on patrol, already conducting traffic enforcement.
Officer Luke James is a new officer with deep roots in the community, having grown up in the local area. He is currently at the WA State Basic Law Enforcement Academy. I expect he will be ready for solo patrol in May of next year.
Second, the police department asked for and received approval to immediately begin the recruitment process for hiring two additional officers, rather than waiting until 2021. It takes a considerable amount of time to recruit, hire, and train the very best people. This gives us a head start on fulfilling our promises.
Third, I am happy to announce we are bringing our K-9 program back! We heard from a lot of you that you valued the program for its police work and also for the considerable opportunities for the team to engage with the community. I mean, everyone loves dogs, right? Well, except bad guys, I guess. We are scheduled to purchase the police dog this month. The dog and his police officer handler will then attend a 10-week training program at no cost, graciously offered by Vancouver Police Department and their Master K-9 handlers. We expect our new K-9 team will be ready for work by the end of December. We can’t wait to introduce them to you!
Fourth, is a hoped for, but unexpected bonus. Thanks to a grant from the U.S. Department of Justice Community Oriented Policing (COPs) program, we will be staffing an additional School Resource Officer. Our department is committed to being fiscally responsible and we are always looking for ways to maximize taxpayers’ investment. So, this Spring we applied for a federal grant to pay approximately one third of a full-time police officer to serve as an additional School Resource Officer. As you may know, SROs provide a proactive and positive connection with our community’s youth and work with school administrators to create a safer environment for the entire school district community of staff and students.
Lastly, we are planning next steps for 2021. Earlier this week I presented the proposed 2021 police department budget to City Council. Council is reviewing all departmental budgets as the city’s overall 2021 budget is developed.
The proposed Police Department budget includes an additional $582,077 for service level improvements as promised. This includes the two additional police officer positions that we are currently recruiting for.
Traffic enforcement: With additional officers on board, we can create a dedicated traffic enforcement program. Currently, patrol officers are doing the best they can to enforce traffic violations around the city. A dedicated team will be able to provide consistent enforcement of violations, especially those that cause crashes or decrease the livability in neighborhoods.
Criminal investigations: After a traffic program is established, I intend to increase our capacity to investigate criminal cases. We currently have two detectives dedicated to investigations; I would like add a third so we can provide a more comprehensive investigative team.
I encourage you stay informed and follow the city’s 2021 budget as it develops. A Guide to the Budget Process is available to provide information and updates. City Council is scheduled to formally adopt the budget in December.
Stand by! We are just getting started to provide the service you expect. Promises Made; Promises Kept!
Mike FortChief of Police