Down to 2 police officers, Brier reaches out to the county

The Snohomish County Sheriff’s Office will provide police services to Brier for the next six months.

BRIER — Policing in Brier will look a little different for the next six months.

Under a contract approved by the City Council on Tuesday, the Snohomish County Sheriff’s Office will contract police services to the city for the next six months as Brier faces a depleted workforce. The police department currently has just two officers.

Fully staffed, Brier is supposed to have six officers and a clerk, but the department hasn’t seen that level of staffing since last fall, Mayor Dale Kaemingk said. Over the past year, officers have left for other agencies or left policing altogether.

The county will respond to top priority calls in the early morning every day. This is called “reactive patrol.” It will cost $91.63 for each hour that a sheriff’s deputy responds to calls. Sheriff’s deputies will respond to calls in Brier out of the office’s south precinct in Mill Creek. The precinct is over seven miles from Brier City Hall.

The sheriff’s office will also assign one deputy sheriff to patrol within Brier on weekends from 6 a.m. Saturday to 2 a.m. Sunday and 6 a.m. Sunday to 2 a.m. Monday. That deputy will handle all levels of 911 calls, not just those that are of utmost priority. This is called “proactive patrol.”

The overtime rate for the weekend shifts will cost the city $122.70 per hour. Brier’s total police budget for 2021 was $1.13 million, according to city clerk-treasurer Paula Swisher. The reduced staffing, however, has meant the city has been well under budget.

The sheriff provides contracted police services to several Snohomish County cities, including Gold Bar, Snohomish and Granite Falls. If both the county and the city agree down the line, the contract can be extended for two more six-month increments. This would make it last through 2022.

“The contract, as I’m sure you saw, is initially for six months and that is as we try to work with you and help kind of get things stabilized,” Undersheriff Jeff Brand said at a June 22 Brier City Council meeting.

The contract could also get terminated early, however. If the city finds someone in the next few months to be police chief and feels comfortable without the county’s assistance, it could give 30 days notice and return to autonomous police services.

This scramble for help began with the surprise announcement that the current police chief, Mike Catlett, planned to retire. Catlett had led the department since 2014. Mayor Kaemingk expected him to stay on as chief for years.

Kaemingk said he first went to other local departments to see if they could pitch in but found most of them were similarly trying to fill their own ranks.

That’s when he decided to reach out to the sheriff’s office.

Kaemingk said he hopes the department can recruit officers over the ensuing six months and rebuild the department.

The city is working with an employment firm to search for a new police chief, Kaemingk said. He was appointed mayor in July 2020 and is up for election this November.

“It’s my intention to work hard to find a new police chief and use that as a foundation to rebuild the Brier Police Department,” Kaemingk said. “Brier citizens want their own police department. The City Council wants Brier’s police department to remain as it is and that’s my goal, as well.”

Brier City Councilmember Martin Krienke, who serves as the council’s liaison with the police department, reiterated that “we’re putting all things in to give us the best odds of finding somebody.”

The county will also assist in Brier’s recruitment with an administrative sergeant tasked with helping out on personnel issues. Snohomish sheriff’s office Sgt. Nathan Alanis started Wednesday, Swisher said. That position will cost the city nearly $17,000 per month through December. If the contract gets extended, the cost goes up almost $500 starting in January.

Brier, with a population under 6,800, is not known for rampant crime. In 2020, there were two aggravated assault reports and 15 simple assaults, according to a report released by the Washington Association of Sheriffs and Police Chiefs this month. Overall, crime went up over 61% in 2020, an increase made up largely by a rise in fraud.

The crime rate in the south Snohomish County city was 33.1 per 1,000 residents in 2020. By comparison, Everett’s was 85.6 per 1,000 residents, according to the WASPC report.

Between 1 a.m. and 7 a.m., Brier averages 1.5 911 calls per night, Brand said.

Jake Goldstein-Street: 425-339-3439; Twitter: @GoldsteinStreet. 

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