EVERETT, Wash. - The North Sound’s largest city was recently awarded a grant of more than $6 million dollars from the United States Department of Justice to beef up the Everett Police Department, but city officials have yet to act.
It could add sixteen new officers to the ranks but the city would also have to pitch in. But thanks to the pandemic, the city of Everett is facing a massive budget shortfall and last week city council basically shelved the proposal.
The city’s police chief says the money would go to pay for more bicycle officers as part of an effort to boost the department’s community policing efforts.
But the timing of the grant is tough, say city council members, citing a $20 million hole in the budget even after programs have been slashed and employees laid off.
“The demand for police services will continue to grow,” said EPD Chief Dan Templeman adding the grant could address the department’s needs in the years to come.
Crime rates are down, said Templeman, but the department is already understaffed and an additional 16 officers on the beat could help.
“By accepting the award, it doesn’t commit the city to spending a dollar but it allows the flexibility to leverage federal dollars in the future and add these officers,” he said.
“We’re facing an unprecedented financial catastrophe,” council member Brenda Stonecipher said last week.
Instead of voting to approve or deny the grant council shelved the proposal which would require tax dollars to maintain. Some council members believe they need to help financially strained citizens will continue to grow.
“We do have a homeless problem, we do have a drug problem and we do have a petty theft problem,” said council member Liz Vogeli. “But those problems are not going to be solved by uniformed police officers.”
“More and more homeless people are showing up on the streets and they don’t know how to be homeless,” said Robert Smiley from The Hand Up Project, an organization helping those suffering from drug addiction or homelessness find a way to safety.
Everett Police’s Community Outreach and Enforcement Team also helps connect the needy with services. But other programs outside of the city that work to help the most vulnerable worry tax dollars can help more people get off the street.
“We don’t really need more officers,” said Smiley. “We need more solutions to the problems.”
City council can still take action and even approve the grant but not for long.
The police chief believes those living in Everett could see a downside of losing a handout from the federal government.
“It may impact our ability to respond in a timely manner,” said Templeman. “It certainly will impact our ability to engage the community in a more personal way.”
Business owners in Everett shared mixed reaction as some supported investing more in law enforcement as others worried social safety net programs should prepare for a spike.
Everett Mayor Cassie Franklin's communications office shared the following statement with Q13 News.
“Everett has one of the most progressive, innovative police departments in the country – and I want to help keep it that way. Our officers are highly trained – and collectively attended more than 33,000 hours of training last year. Every one of our officers receives 40 hours of crisis intervention/de-escalation training, well above the state-mandated 8 hour requirement. Investing in training is investing in the quality and caliber of our police force. And having adequate staffing is important to being able to sustain this level of training.
With public safety being a top priority for Everett residents these funds would have supported hiring up to 16 new officers over the next few years. The growth of our police force has not kept pace with the growth of our City’s population, and we have a real need for more resources to address safety and build relationships in our community.
The officers would have filled the kind of roles that community members are asking for – such as foot patrols, bicycle officers, motorcycle/traffic officers and community police. We’ve been wanting to double the size of our bicycle patrol, and deploy them throughout the city and not just downtown. Bicycle officers are able to connect with the community in positive ways. We also would like to increase our motorcycle/traffic unit. Speeding/reckless driving are among the top complaints we receive so adding capacity there would help us address these community concerns.
Having a strong, well-resourced police program is important to future recruitment and helps set us apart from other departments. Our current recruitment efforts seek to bring in experienced lateral hires, with a focus on diversifying our force.
Accepting the grant does not commit us to spending the grant. We also don’t need to spend all of the funds. We would have flexibility in determining when and how much of the funds we wanted to deploy to support the hiring of new officers.” –Mayor Cassie Franklin, City of Everett