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King County budget draws dissent over criminal justice cuts | Reagan Dunn disagrees with policy direction
The King County Council approved the 2011 budget on a 7-2 vote Monday with council members Reagan Dunn and Pete von Reichbauer voting no.
Both Dunn and von Reichbauer took issue with the cuts to criminal justice system in the $5.1 billion county budget.
King County Sheriff Sue Rahr announced in September a plan to lay off 28 deputies to help close a $60 million deficit in the county budget. The prosecutor’s office is slated to lose 16 attorneys.
Dunn said the budget used “draconian cuts” in the sheriff’s office and the prosecutor’s office.
“The truth is unincorporated King County will now have the lowest police presence of anywhere in the state,” Dunn said. “It is a vast area to patrol. This budget creates a dangerous situation.”
According to Dunn, there will be .65 deputies per 1,000 people.
A release from Councilwoman Julia Patterson, who voted to approve the budget, said, “King County government made the difficult choices necessary to balance our budget. We went through this budget line-by-line to cut spending in the most responsible way possible, just as many individuals and families everywhere are doing with their own household budgets. Given the fiscal challenges we are facing, this budget does all it can to protect public safety, maintain the quality of life in our communities, and protect our most vulnerable residents.”
Dunn stated he believed there was money to pay for most of the deputies and criminal justice. He pointed to a proposal he and von Reichbauer presented to the council to fund deputies and attorneys for the prosecutor’s office. Dunn said he believes the “tax neutral proposition would have passed. They wouldn’t even give it a hearing. I do not agree with the policy choice the council is taking.”
Covington City Manger Derek Matheson said when the announcement was made the 28 deputies would be cut, three were from Covington. The city contracts city police services from the King County Sheriff’s Office.
Matheson said Tuesday two of the city officers are safe while one is “on the bubble.”
According to Matheson one of the important issues surrounding public safety for the city was the proposal by King County Executive Dow Constantine to close the Maleng Regional Justice Center to prisoner bookings.
Matheson said the problem is Covington police officers are forced to take prisoners to Seattle if the justice center is closed for bookings, and this takes an officer off the street for a longer period of time.
He said the council agreed to add money in to keep the booking operations open for three months n 2011.
According to Matheson the city plans to transfer prisoner bookings to the new Des Moines jail facility, South Correction Entity or SCORE, after 2011.
Another issue for cities in the region will be as King County cuts back on services, more demand will be placed on city government to provide for residents.