Snohomish council to make decision on replacing police with county sheriff’s deputies

SNOHOMISH — The city of Snohomish could be patrolled by sheriff’s deputies as early as January.

The long-debated switch from the city’s police department to a contract with the Snohomish County Sheriff’s Office is scheduled for a City Council vote on Tuesday.

The issue has split council members in the past, and city leaders expect considerable discussion and public comment at this week’s meeting, City Manager Larry Bauman said.

Meanwhile, the city has drawn up a near-final proposed contract with the sheriff’s office, Bauman said. Only a few minor details were left last week.

City officials this spring decided to pursue a contract for police services to help shore up a $1 million shortfall in the 2012 budget. The move immediately proved controversial, drawing heated arguments from both sides.

The latest version of the contract would last five years.

It would save the city an estimated $370,000 the first year, Bauman said. That would increase over time to a projected $690,000 in savings in the fifth year.

The city expects to terminate its contract with Police Chief John Turner once the county contract goes into effect, Bauman said. Turner already had previously retired and is no longer a commissioned police officer.

As is the case with most of the cities that contract with the sheriff’s office, Snohomish has asked for a police chief to oversee the deputies assigned to Snohomish. There are five candidates for the chief’s position: four sheriff’s lieutenants and one Snohomish police commander. Bauman declined to name the candidates.

At least two interview panels are planned, in addition to a community open house.

Bauman hopes to make a recommendation on the chief’s position to Sheriff John Lovick in early December, after reviewing his recommendation with the council. Lovick will make the final decision.

Most Snohomish police officers likely would be hired on as sheriff’s deputies, but they first must meet county hiring standards for law enforcement.

Some appointments might be provisional because those background tests will take time, Bauman said.

The proposed contract says that deputies working in Snohomish would drive Snohomish police cars and wear Snohomish police uniforms, Bauman said.

The uniforms will keep the same colors and markings but will transition from jumpsuits to pants and shirts, he said. The deputies will wear sheriff’s badges.

Once the police services issue is sorted out, the city should be able to finalize next year’s budget.

Open house

A community open house for people to meet Snohomish police chief candidates is scheduled for 7 p.m. Nov. 21 at the Snohomish Senior Center.

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