Facing a shortage of law enforcement personnel at the Brier Police Department, the City of Brier will soon begin contracting for supplementary services with the Snohomish County Sheriff’s Department.
Following last month’s announcement that Chief Mike Catlett would be retiring, city leaders said they would be conducting a search to hire his replacement. The police department was already having problems attracting and retaining officers, a struggle which many cities nationwide have been facing for a number of years. Brier will be down to just two officers after Catlett and another officer, who has also given his notice, both leave their positions later this month.
When fully staffed, the Brier Police Department has six sworn officers and a records supervisor. It offers a full range of police services including animal control, crime prevention, fingerprinting, patrol and investigations, and a traffic violations bureau. They serve Brier’s population of approximately 6,300 people, which covers the city’s area of 2.13 square miles.
Mayor Dale Kaemingk said that when he was appointed to fill the remainder of longtime Brier Mayor Bob Colinas’ term, “it was my understanding from Chief Catlett that it was his plan to serve several more years in Brier as the Chief of Police,” adding that Catlett’s announcement was unexpected.
“I immediately began to reach out to neighboring cities to see what support we might be able to receive on a short-term basis while we looked for a new chief of police,” Kaemingk added. “Through this process I learned that these cities are themselves struggling to retain officers and provide sufficient police leadership staff. Hence, they were not able to assist, even on a short-term basis. This is a statewide issue and not just limited to our region.”
During that process, Kaemingk said he also contacted the Snohomish County Sheriff’s Department, which offered its assistance. City officials are working on an interlocal agreement with Snohomish County under which the sheriff’s department would provide the Brier Police Department with supplemental support during the police chief search.
The Brier City Council approved entering into such an agreement during its June 22 regular business meeting. “But the county, after the fact, found something that they wanted to adjust or modify so we’ve been going back and forth with attorneys,” Kaemingk noted. He characterized the ongoing discussions as being centered around issues of job title and liabilities. “And so the agreement, it’s just still a work in progress,” he added, “but we’re very, very close and it’s not that significantly different than what we had originally agreed to.”
Kaemingk anticipates that the council will approve the agreement’s modifications at its next regular business meeting on July 13. However, because Chief Catlett’s last day is July 9, the sheriff’s department will begin providing its supplementary services next week. Those services include supervisory leadership and help staffing patrol positions.
The interlocal agreement between the city and county is for a period of six months, but it can also be terminated at any time by providing 30 days of notice. The monthly cost of county-provided services are among the items that are still being worked out. “There’s an hourly charge and there’s a charge for the supervision, so I can’t tell you exactly,” Kaemingk said.
One of those factors still being determined is the number of patrol support hours that the city will regularly receive from the sheriff’s department. “We roughly know what coverage we want when, and part of it depends on how available our officers are, the remaining Brier officers, and how many hours they want to work,” he noted. “Because obviously we’re going to have them working as much as possible, as much as they want or can, and then filling in with the county after that.”
In the meantime, Kaemingk along with the city council will be looking for Catlett’s replacement. “This all happened rather quickly and so I will be working with the city council on what they think the search should look like, what kind of search we’re going to do – are we going to use a professional recruiting company, those discussions have not taken place yet, but they will,” he said.
Kaemingk added that the interlocal agreement is a necessary short-term solution while the city conducts its search for a new police chief and also attempts to recruit more patrol officers.
“The City of Brier is one of the safest cities in the state of Washington and the Brier PD deserves much credit for that recognition,” he said. “I also appreciate that the citizens of Brier love the Brier Police Department and do not want to see it eliminated or changed. I also agree with them and will do my best to establish a thorough and effective search, working with the Brier City Council to find another Chief of Police and new officers to support our city.”
Kaemingk added that he recognizes residents have questions and concerns about the matter and encouraged them to contact him personally by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 425-775-5440. “As always, we also encourage and welcome citizen participation during our city council meetings,” he said. “Please see the City of Brier website for the details of how to join the meetings.”
The Brier City Council’s general website can be viewed here, while the agendas and minutes of its meetings can be viewed here. The council’s July 6 workshop has been cancelled and its next regular business meeting is scheduled for Tuesday, July 13.
— By Nathan Blackwell