Washougal Council OKs additional police officer

The Washougal City Council has authorized Police Chief Ron Mitchell to extend an offer of employment this year for a new police position that is included in the proposed 2018 city budget.

The authorization, which occurred during the Sept. 25 council meeting, will enable Mitchell to make a good faith offer of employment in late 2017, prior to the availability of appropriated funds in 2018.

The Washougal Police Department is currently in the process of hiring an officer to succeed Troy Martin, who resigned in August after serving with the department for 22 years. Mitchell said Martin is pursuing a non-law enforcement interest.

A selection process to fill the vacant officer position is underway. Mitchell is hoping to use the selection process to fill the vacant and new positions.

The proposed $3.6 million police budget, presented during the council’s Aug. 28 workshop, includes the addition of one full-time officer, with an estimated salary and benefits cost of $100,000.

The mayor’s proposed budget will be presented during the Monday, Oct. 23, council meeting, at 7 p.m., and a public hearing will be held Monday, Nov. 13.

Prior to the council vote to add a police officer, the Washougal Police Department was budgeted for 20 full-time commissioned police officers, including Chief Mitchell, Commander Allen Cook, two detectives, one school resource officer, a K-9 officer, four patrol sergeants and 10 patrol officer positions.

Comparing Washougal’s police force staffing numbers with other Clark County municipalities shows that the city has a lower officer-to-citizen ratio than most comparable cities. In Washougal, where there are 20 officers for a city of 15,760 people, the ratio is 1:788 or one officer for every 788 citizens. With the additional officer, that ratio would drop to 1:750. In Camas, where there are 27 sworn officers for a city of 23,080 people, the ratio is higher than Washougal’s at 1:854. Likewise, in Battle Ground, the ratio is 1:848, or 24 sworn officers for 20,370 people. In Ridgefield, where there are 10 sworn officers for a city of 7,235, the ratio is 1:723.

Despite its lower ratio of officers to citizens, Mitchell says the Washougal police department is having trouble keeping up with the number of calls coming in for police assistance.

“We are at a point where we can barely keep up with our dispatched 911 calls, let alone do any proactive community policing, or respond to requests from our citizens for additional speed and traffic enforcement,” Mitchell said.

The Washougal Police Department received 7,446 calls for service from Jan. 1 through Aug. 31, 2017. That compares to 4,930 calls for service from Jan. 1 through Aug. 31, 2010. These statistics do not include traffic stops.

“These stats do not include officer productivity for such things as traffic task force events or K-9 SWAT calls that WPD officers also work throughout the county,” Cook said. “Some calls require one officer, some calls require 10 or more. It all depends on the type of call.”

When an officer writes a report, it includes data entry plus the narrative.

“I have found it to be, on average, about one-half hour of report writing for each 15 minutes that the officer is on a call that requires a report,” Cook said. “The time it takes to author a report also depends on the complexity of the call. This also does not include any follow-up work needed later.”