Law enforcement is a key issue in cityhood debate

"Though police protection has not come up often during incorporation campaign debates, 58 percent of Silverdale residents named it as a key issue in their voting decision during a recent poll.Of those polled, 67 percent of cityhood proponents and 37.5 percent of opponents said law enforcement was “very important” in determining how they would vote on the incorporation issue. “I think it is one of the most significant issues. We’ve heard a lot about law enforcement from people we’ve talked to,” said proponent Bill Broughton. The Silverdale lawyer was one of the two original cityhood supporters – he co-founded Silverdale-Now and was instrumental in the drafting and creation of the incorporation proposal.Kitsap County Sheriff Steve Boyer agreed. “My understanding is that public safety is a driver for incorporation ... not just in recent events, but always,” said Boyer.Currently, the Kitsap County Sheriff’s Department has 10 deputies assigned to the area, though Boyer said the number is misleading. Officers assigned to the outlying county areas, like Holly, Lone Rock and Seabeck, respond to calls in Silverdale when necessary.If the area incorporates, Boyer expects a new city council will model its police protection after other recent Washington incorporations. That means a dramatic increase in staff, from 10 total to 35 on duty around the clock (based on a population of 17,400 and a standard of two officers per thousand population).Because of Silverdale’s urban nature, Broughton said it requires a tailored law enforcement system. “In the Ridgetop area, some people who live there say they’ve never seen an officer patrol their neighborhood. ... When you have urban areas, you need increased protection. I’m sure Steve Boyer would agree with that,” he said.Boyer did, though he cautioned that he is neutral on the incorporation issue. “You have to customize your police response to your area. Silverdale is a lot more dense and urban – you have to recognize those differences,” he said.“If they (the city council) have the tax base, they can afford a higher number of officers. It is possible that they would have higher visibility and the response time would go down there for you because they don’t have the distance to travel,” Boyer said.While voters ponder the law enforcement issue, Boyer is researching and planning ways to smoothly facilitate a Silverdale transition to cityhood. The Kushlan and Associates study, a county-funded comparison of governance options in Central Kitsap, assumes an incorporated Silverdale would contract for law enforcement with the county.“There’s an opportunity to provide a change in law enforcement in Silverdale. We’ve been making preparations and there’s several contract models we’ve researched” in case a city council goes through with the Kushlan study contracting plans, Boyer said.“There’s some real advantages to contract with the sheriff’s department that you wouldn’t have if you established a new entity,” Boyer said."

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