Police Chief Q & A on Everett’s Streets Initiative Efforts

Streets meeting

Deborah Wright from Everett’s Office of Neighborhoods and Police Chief Dan Templeman at a Community Streets Initiative Task Force meeting last year.

Awareness and efforts to address problems faced by having so many people living on the streets of Everett, WA are at an all-time high.

In 2014 the City of Everett developed a Community Streets Initiative and the Mayor formed a task force to look into the problems and try to find solutions.

Progress is being made and just yesterday Everett Mayor Ray Stephanson announced the hiring of Julie Frauenholtz as streets initiative coordinator. (funded by the United Way of Snohomish County), She will work out of the Wall Street building to manage and help direct Everett’s Streets Initiative efforts.

The Everett Police Department also recently hired a social worker who is embedded within the police department and goes out with officers to provide services to those willing to accept them.

Recently Mayor Stephanson announced an additional $1 million dollars will be put into the 2016 budget to staff more police, social workers and a prosecutor to work directly on city streets issues including mental illness, homelessness, and addiction. The unit will address problems faced by people experiencing those issues as well as concerns by business owners and citizens regarding criminal behavior done by an element that is taking advantage of the situation in Everett.

After his recent report to the Everett City Council Public Safety Committee, MyEverettNews.com asked Everett Police Chief Dan Templeman the following questions regarding how the effort is going, results seen and expectations. His answers are in bold.

Q: You’ve said between October 2014 and the end of September of this year there were 1300 hours of overtime used for the off-duty officers working in the downtown, mission, transit and Clark Park areas. What does that equate to in actual dollars?

A: Approximately $75,000.00

Q: There were 5010 contacts, 198 arrests, 352 citations, 2148 business contacts, 47 transports and 818 referrals. The question…Is there any hard data or other evidence that things have improved in those areas over the last 12 months?

A: The data is mixed – when looking at the Central Business District, most crimes are down when compared to the previous 5-year averages. Assault, burglary, vandalism, vehicle prowl and weapons violations are all down, while shoplifts and mental health contacts resulting in reports have shown an increase. In the Mission area, assault, robbery, trespass, vandalism and general thefts are all down when comparing the last 12 months to the previous 5-year average. However, bicycle and auto thefts have shown an increase, as have unlawful camping, mental health contacts resulting in a report, commercial burglary and drug arrests.

To a certain degree, it would be expected that we would see an increase in some crime categories as we have dedicated a tremendous amount of resources to these areas in response to public concerns. We have conducted undercover operations in these areas to address both drug use and sales as well as bicycle thefts. Any undercover operations will result in an increase in the number of reported crimes. More officers working proactive patrols will also result in an increase in the number of reports generated.

What cannot be measured with the data is the overwhelmingly positive response that our officers have encountered from area businesses and citizens. The increased visibility and enhanced response time to complaints in these areas has been noticed by citizens and their appreciation has been expressed repeatedly.

Q: You said that regular officers are pretty much running from call to call and these OT officers are able to devote more time to the issues which are more complex. You cited an example of 100 hours spent on just one person. Given the limited geography of the current OT assignment area, shouldn’t it be expanded to the entire city so the team can focus on the worst of the worse wherever they are?

Right now, our primary focus is on the areas where we’re receiving the most complaints. But these patrols have the flexibility to move and adjust as needed. For example, we have used these patrols to address issues along Broadway, on 41st St. and on Rucker Ave. We will continue to focus patrols in those areas where it is most needed, but allow for flexibility to adjust as necessary. It should be noted that the case cited above (100 hours spent on one person) was from south Everett, and we were able to dedicate the necessary resources utilizing patrol, the administrative sergeant and our Law Enforcement Embedded Social Worker. The proposed new unit will work city wide (but will remain focused on our most problematic areas).

Three challenges you reported the department was facing were:

  • Staffing issues (currently 17 open positions unfilled and 9 officers in the academy right now)
  • Jail Restrictions limiting the ability of officers to book people on minor offenses.
  • Public intoxication laws, panhandling and loitering laws are too lax and hamper officers.

    Questions based on the above three.

    Q: The Mayor is proposing a special unit of 4 officers and 1 sergeant. (plus 2 more social workers and prosecutor) – Where is the staffing for this unit going to come from and does this mean the department is now down 22 officers at current levels?

    A: The current proposal calls for 4 new police officers, 1 sergeant, 2 Law Enforcement Embedded Social Workers and 1 prosecutor. EPD currently has 17 vacancies. If approved by City Council, the number of vacancies will increase to 22. For the police officer positions, we will be reviewing our current staffing and looking at different options, but it will take time to stand-up a full-time new unit. While we have several current vacancies, we have been fortunate to hire 30 new police officers since last June. But challenges still remain with a competitive job market and stringent hiring standards that eliminate many new officer candidates from employment consideration.

    Q: Doesn’t 8 positions nearly take up that entire $1 million dollars with salary, benefits and operations expenses?

    A: We are still working out the final numbers, but the 8 new positions will likely account for nearly $1 million. The Mayor’s proposal calls for $1 million in additional funding for the Safe Streets initiatives in 2016; his proposed 2016 budget already included $1.2 million for Streets Initiative efforts, including $650,000 for housing.

    Q: With jail restrictions already an issue and even with alternative sentencing such as work crews being proposed how can officers enforce for panhandling, loitering and intoxication now? Since we can’t arrest our way out of the problem how are these laws helpful?

    A: I am a firm believer in the notion that we cannot arrest our way out of the problems we are experiencing. But having said that, the police must still possess the necessary tools to tackle our most common complaints and effectively address repeat offenders as well as our most chronic users of the system. With any new or updated ordinance, education and access to social services will still remain our number one priority. Arrest will be reserved for those instances in which the officers believe it is the most effective means to deal with the situation. In some instances we have seen individuals who have been opposed to accepting our offers of services become much more amenable to such offers once the cloud of intoxication has worn off, which often times comes after a stay in jail. To effectively address the problem we are facing as a community, we have to address it from a balanced approach, which must include a combination of housing, alternatives to prosecution and enforcement.

    Q: Has any thought been given to how 9-1-1 calls are classified and should they be re-classified at Sno-Pac to keep both Fire and Police from both being dispatched? If fire gets there first and there is no medical problem there usually are no questions asked and the person is sent down the road. Is an attempt made to document every contact every time with both fire and police?

    A: There has not been any consideration to reclassifying how calls are dispatched. The nature of these medical calls is unpredictable and both officers and EMS personnel have been injured in the past when attempting to render aid to these individuals. Because of this unpredictability, reclassifying these calls so that Police are not dispatched can present a real safety risk to EMS personnel. Due to these safety concerns, the decision has been made to dispatch both Police and Fire on these unknown medical calls.

    Having said this, there are still instances in which the EFD responds to and handles calls without EPD assistance. This may occur because a police officer is not available, or because the call involves a subject who has been contacted repeatedly by EMS personnel in the past. The City of Everett, through its CHART Program (Chronic Utilizer Alternative Response Team), has begun to track some of these individuals who frequently utilize first responder, jail and hospital services, and are working with social service providers to find effective alternatives to divert them away from these services and into a more permanent, stable environment. Everett Fire documents all of the contacts they make in the field, but police only document the contact if there is criminal conduct or the person is taken into custody for some reason.

    MyEverettNews.com would like to thank Chief Templeman for taking the time to address the above questions. This issue is not unique to Everett and is incredibly complex.

    MyEverettNews.com will continue to try our best to explain what’s happening and report on the City of Everett’s efforts as best we can. – Leland Dart, Publisher-Editor

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    About My Everett News Staff

    My Everett News is a hyperlocal news website featuring news and events in Everett, Washington. We also cover City of Everett information and items of interest to those who live and work in Everett.

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