SNOHOMISH – Police officer Marcus Dill catches his first speeder within 15 minutes.
The red Honda zips past him on Pine Street, where drivers often exceed the 25-mph limit. Dill gives the 16-year-old driver a warning instead of a $132 ticket.
In the next two hours, Dill breaks up a fight, drives through downtown Snohomish, says hello to three kids on bikes and catches another speeding driver.
He used to spend about the same amount of time every month filling out an a report listing his goals, training hours and other administrative information – much of it already tracked by computer.
“A lot of people were spending so much time doing reports you would forget you could get out of the car on First Street and say hello,” Dill said.
Now he and other officers are spending less time writing reports and more time on patrol, one of several changes made after the departure of former Police Chief Rob Sofie in June.
“The officers are happier that they’re able to go out and do their jobs, and citizens are happy to see the officers,” acting Police Chief Chuck Macklin said.
Pressure to spend more time on the streets came from both residents and officers, city manager Larry Bauman said.
Eliminating some administrative work leaves officers more time to solve real problems, he said.
How many extra hours is tough to say, but some residents and business owners report seeing more officers downtown and at potential trouble spots.
“With them down here once and a while, you know you can call on them, and they know who you are and what’s normal,” said Randy Spoo, owner of a downtown ice cream store.
Mayor Liz Loomis credited increased patrols with cutting the number of problems reported at the Averill Youth Complex in half.
“At the first meeting, over 100 people showed up to discuss the skate park. At our last meeting, only four or five people came,” she said. “That speaks directly to the increased police presence.”
The changes followed an 11-part plan implemented after Sofie left. Officially, Sofie retired, but he said he was suddenly pressured out by Bauman.
Sofie’s departure followed a consultant’s evaluation in May that reported leadership problems and other troubles, including complaints about unfair employee evaluations, overuse of internal investigations and low morale. Sofie disputes the results.
The plan to address those issues includes improving communication within the police department, Bauman said.
None of the paperwork changes will affect the department’s state and national accreditation, Macklin said, adding that he is applying for the chief’s job. The city posted the position earlier this month. Bauman hopes to select the chief by the end of the year.
Reporter Katherine Schiff- ner: 425-339-3436 or firstname.lastname@example.org.