BurienCityHallLensFlare16_thumbBy Jack Mayne A move to add two officers to the Burien Police Department at an estimated cost of $415,000 was debated for over an hour at Monday night’s Burien City Council meeting, drawing heavy fire from Councilmembers Lauren Berkowitz and Nancy Tosta before being delayed to the next meeting for further debate and decision. The Council on Monday (Aug. 1) approved changes in a program to provide an afterschool basketball and recreation program and also okayed upgrading a city staffer to a teen program assistant, despite some objections from two members over lack of an overarching set of goals. Adding police officers City Manager Kamuron Gurol and Burien Police Chief Scott Kimerer are asking the Council permission to hire a patrol officer and a sergeant for work with the new downtown “emphasis patrol.” “The addition of these officers will address community desire for an increased police presence and crime prevention,” the staff request said, and the reason for doing this at mid-year was because of “the lengthy hiring and training process, which is an average of six months.” Chief Kimerer said his department had a “monumental increase” of almost 20,000 calls for service last year, for his 27-member patrol force. He said the department has applied for a grant to issue where people “in chaos” need to be directed to facilities that can assist them, or in some cases police action is required. Most of the officers doing such work have been redirected back to general patrol activities because of the increased number of public calls for service. There is now a new officer working on the “emphasis patrol” downtown, a younger “very energetic” one with roots in the Burien community and who speaks fluent Spanish. He also “has ideas” of how to come up with ways to deal with the homeless issue, the mentally disturbed issue, addiction issues, and is considered an officer who is going to be a “tremendous asset to us.” TostaOpposed to adding police Councilmember Nancy Tosta said she was “totally on board with the need to think about public safety,” but that adding police personnel may not be the best way and perhaps there was a “more strategic way.” She was joined later by the still personally-absent Councilmember Lauren Berkowitz. Kimerer’s proposal, she said, was only one way and “it is really quite expensive” in light of the likelihood that the city’s income may not be growing at the same rate as expenses. “I am not for adding more police officers,” Tosta said. “I don’t think we have that funding,” noting that adding two officers would cost “half a million dollars,” Tosta said, suggesting other ideas be considered to confront aberrant behavior. She added that a police report from Kimerer says the crime rate is down to 2011 levels. “There is a broader array of things we should be considering than just hire two more police officers,” Tosta said. Kimerer said the areas Tosta was talking about “would not fall under the police.” He noted that violent crimes are down, as Tosta suggested, but non-violent crimes like car prowls and shoplifting are up. As usual by telephone, Councilmember Lauren Berkowitz said she was seeking non-police solutions to the city’s crime issues with human problems. “To have (more police) as the only solution, seems very shortsighted,” Berkowitz said. “I am strongly not in favor of that solution.” Councilmember Debi Wagner, also by telephone, noted the surplus was “not a sustainable surplus” and wondered if there was a “happy median,” perhaps by just hiring one officer. She suggested more police would be of benefit but sustainable finances would have to be considered. “I don’t want a to have a huge increase in taxes in 2017 to sustain more police,” she said, or have to cut the number of police officers to meet budget requirements. Need more police Councilmember Steve Armstrong said “we need more police on the street,” indicating his support for Kimerer’s request. In the city survey, Armstrong noted 96 percent of people were concerned about public safety which “starts with police, preventative policing, it starts with active policing,” and he said the additional two officers “would be another way to add skills to reduce crime.” Tosta said he was incorrect, noting the public survey showed that only 26 percent wanted more police and enforcement, others wanted more general additions to public safety. She would rather see the estimate annual $415,000 cost of adding officers be put into other types of services and opportunities for youth and residents than she would for adding cops. Tosta said the city already spends 52 percent of the annual budget on policing but the city needs a community center, along with other ways to engage youth. “I think there are other ways to think about public safety,” Tosta said. Mayor Lucy Krakowiak said she did support the additional officers in light of the community survey and that the Council was developing ideas to confront the non-criminal aspects of problems. Money for police available Gurol said that no one on the city staff or police department “believes that more cops just responding to calls for service is the solution.” “We need a broad-based approach and I would applaud the Council for recognizing and providing the resources for human services elements,” and said he hoped for Council consideration for another proposal, to add a teen basketball program to involve youth at Highline High School. Police, he said, haven’t the staff to do more than just respond to the increased number of calls for help and assistance, adding that Kimerer had actually asked for four officers but staff was asking for two because that was what would be financially attainable. Finance Director Kim Krause said the money is available to hire the requested officers by Sept. 1. The cost for the two officers the rest of this year is approximately $133,000 and there are sufficient funds available in the police budget to cover the cost. Councilmember Austin Bell asked if more police would reduce the non-violent crimes and Kimerer said officers would potentially do that but not directly. More police would provide more ways to figure out where stolen property is disposed or where certain crimes generally take place. New basketball program With some criticism that there was no overarching strategy from Councilmembers Tosta and Berkowitz, the Council unanimously approved upgrading a position within the Parks, Recreation and Cultural Services Department for an after school recreation program at Highline High School. Steve Roemer, parks and recreation director, had said at a Council study session that he would propose to duplicate a Sylvester after school basketball program and expand it to high school aged teens at Highline High. Very important, he said, is the idea of “an enhanced intercity teen basketball program,” which was outlined at an earlier Council study session by Patricia Meijia, Burien teen program assistant. Roemer’s request for early action was to “continue development and operation of programs for youth and teens, including the start of the after school program at Highline High School and the intercity teen basketball program.” Roemer told the Council his budget can absorb the $16,800 cost for the four months the program would operate this year and $51,500 next year. without more money from the Council. The proposal also asks for an upgrade in the recreation leader to a “teen programmer” job to “add developing new recreation programs for youth and teens” and increase the pay for the position that he said Meijia would be promoted to fill. Roemer told the Council it would cost $4,400 for the rest to this year and $13,100 annual projected costs beginning in 2017 but with no need of increased budget funds. Councilmember Berkowitz said she generally approved of the move but wanted to know why the Council is asked to approve it without any basic facts other than Roemer’s word it was a good program. Is this too much additional work for Meijia?, asked Councilmember Wagner to which Roemer said, “Trish (Meijia) is ready to get into this challenge…well within Trish’s capacity … this is a very important thing to her to move forward.” Tosta and Berkowitz both said they liked the direction of the programs but felt there should be an overall strategy developed and shared with Council.]]>