Petition urges funding for more Jefferson County deputies

PORT HADLOCK — The Sheriff’s Citizen Advisory Committee is seeking signatures on a petition to put pressure on county officials to find the funds to hire more patrol deputies for the Jefferson County Sheriff’s Office.

“We’re very concerned in Jefferson County that we don’t have enough deputies on patrol during certain shifts,” said Dick Schulte, the Kala Point representative on the panel, after the group agreed to disseminate a petition after a meeting Sept. 7.

“We’ve got some shifts where there’s two deputies covering Jefferson County from Puget Sound to the Pacific Ocean,” he said.

Schulte said this causes some serious problems for deputies.

He cited an incident in January in which a man allegedly assaulted a deputy in Brinnon, causing minor injuries.

He said the deputy had to wait 19 minutes for backup to arrive.

Staffing also causes issues for community members, Sheriff Dave Stanko said.

“If we have deputies responding to a domestic dispute, that takes two deputies, so on certain shifts, if any other calls come in, there’s no one to respond,” Stanko said.

Stanko asked for a budget increase last year to hire two full-time patrol deputies.

That increase was declined, so this year, Stanko said he plans to ask for four full-time deputies at an estimated annual cost of $140,000 per deputy to cover salary and benefits.

The petition by the citizen advisory committee is asking for the budget increase to come from the county’s general fund.

Schulte said the committee hopes to present the petition to Jefferson County commissioners before they begin the 2018 budget evaluation, which is scheduled for early November.

“We’re hoping this will influence them to increase the budget,” Schulte said.

Commissioners could not be reached for comment Wednesday.

Schulte said he has personally placed copies of the petition at the Evergreen Fitness Center and at the Kala Point Club House.

Schulte said other members of the citizen advisory committee planned to put the petition around their communities but didn’t know exactly where.

Each member of the citizen advisory committee represents a population area in Jefferson County including Port Townsend, Discovery Bay, Coyle and Brinnon.

“They put this petition out to see what the community wants,” Stanko said. “That’s their job: to bring information back to me and to the commission on what the community expects.”

The petition, which was drafted at the Sept. 7 meeting, states that the deputies are overworked and that new deputies could help solve problems in more rural parts of the county.

“By all acceptable standards our Sheriff’s Office patrol division is understaffed and overworked, jeopardizing both their safety and ours,” it said in the petition. “We, the undersigned, as the citizens of Jefferson County, Washington State, petition you, the commissioners of Jefferson County, to increase the budget of the Jefferson County Sheriff’s Office.”

Stanko said 13 patrol officers cover east Jefferson County. One deputy patrols west Jefferson County, and the Sheriff’s Office is in the process of hiring a second one for the West End.

A study by Washington State University in 2016 found that Jefferson County would need to hire seven more deputies by 2020 to adequately cover the 400 miles of road and growing population.

“Currently, our resources only go so far,” Stanko said.

Stanko said the increase could be funded by the general fund, but other funding options could include a public safety tax or a levy lift.

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Jefferson County Editor/Reporter Cydney McFarland can be reached at 360-385-2335, ext. 55052, or at cmcfarland@peninsuladailynews.com.

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