Olympia Police Department requests new equipment, more officers

lpemberton@theolympian.comNovember 19, 2013 

Olympian 2013 file photo.

STEVE BLOOM — Staff photographer

The Olympia Police Department’s 2014 budget request includes $750,000 in new equipment purchases and $106,000 in technology enhancements, according to a report the City Council heard during Tuesday night’s meeting.

“We are looking to spend about $20,000 on radios,” department spokeswoman Laura Wohl said. “That is just the beginning.”

The police department also wants to purchase new Breathalyzer machines, radar guns and less-lethal weapon munitions, such as pepper balls and stun guns.

Many of the police department’s pieces of equipment are past their recommended life cycle, Wohl said.

“We did get behind (in replacing equipment) in the last several years due to our budget crunching needs,” she said.

The council spent a large portion of its business meeting discussing the city’s preliminary $119 million spending plan. The budget represents a 4.2 percent increase over the 2013 budget, and is scheduled to be adopted in mid-December.

The city expects to balance the budget without significant cuts or layoffs, according to administrative services director Jane Ragland Kirkemo.

As part of the budget, the city plans to add four new police officers funded by a voter-approved public safety tax. The one-tenth of 1 percent tax, which the city began collecting during the second half of this year, is expected to generate about $900,000 in 2013 and $1.4 million in 2014.

This year’s money was used to support the Victim’s Assistance Program, the Ambassador Program, school resource and traffic officers, crime prevention, jail beds, the Westside police station and overtime that helped support downtown patrols, Wohl said.

Next year’s budget adds an additional officer who would be assigned to patrol downtown Olympia on foot or bike.

“That will allow us to give seven-day coverage during business hours,” Wohl said. “Currently we have four-day coverage.”

The budget request also includes a new police training sergeant, who would work with new hires, and a new position with the Thurston County Narcotics Task Force.

“One of the things we’re committed to is spending time and investigating and helping alleviate the heroin problem we have downtown at this moment,” Wohl said.

The police department also expects to fill several vacancies in 2014, mostly due to upcoming retirements.

“In 2014, we estimate we will need at least a dozen more officers,” Wohl said.

The city’s budget includes proposed residential utility rate increases of 7 percent for water, 4 percent for waste water, 3 percent for the LOTT Clean Water Alliance and 2 percent for storm water. On a monthly basis, the increases translate to about $5 per household, according to city manager Steve Hall.

Lisa Pemberton: 360-754-5433 lpemberton@theolympian.com @Lisa_Pemberton

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