Uproar over rumors of change to Black Diamond's police
By TJ MARTINELL
Covington Reporter Reporter
October 25, 2012 · Updated 8:19 AM
A rumor about the future of the Black Diamond Police Department caused an uproar in the past week.
The rumor snowballed after a meeting Oct. 16 between Mayor Rebecca Olness, Council member Tamie Deady, Council member Carol Benson and City Administrator Pete Butkus.
During the meeting, according to Butkus, the Black Diamond City Council members discussed aspects of the budget, such as what city services YarrowBay pays for, the reliability of the city’s revenue figures and which local governments in the state have enacted a transportation benefit district (TBD).
This conversation also included questions about police services in cities such as Maple Valley and Covington, both of which have a contract with the King County Sheriff’s Office. Among the requests were for information about regional police service reports.
According to both Deady and Benson, they mentioned during the meeting they had spoken to King County Sheriff Steve Strachan six months ago at an event, during which he offered to make a contract bid for police services if they requested it.
Both Deady and Benson said there was no further contact with Strachan after that meeting.
It is not clear how the rumor got started. According to Scott Oak, a representative of the Black Diamond Police Officers Association, ongoing rumors within the department prompted the union to have a meeting Olness prior to the meeting with Deady and Benson, during which the rumor was brought to her attention.
“I told them I had absolutely no idea it was considered,” Olness said.
Through the end of Monday the Reporter received more than 10 letters to the editor, the majority of which were related to this issue. The issue was also discussed during the public comment period at the Oct. 18 City Council meeting.
Many of the letters accused the City Council of trying to dismantle the police department in favor of contracting through the Sheriff’s Office, a charge Benson said is unfounded. She stated they merely discussed possibilities of where to cut or change services, which also included police services. She also said they looked at the possibility of partnering with Maple Valley for police services.
Deady said she is looking at ways to improve services at a lower cost, but does not want to get rid of the police department.
“I grew up with the police department here,” Deady said. “I was really mad when we got rid of our fire department. I would be just as mad if we got rid of our police department. Let’s just look into what we’re doing. Maybe we could cut back on some services or find something in the budget without losing a single police officer.
The police expenditures accounted for 33 percent of the city’s budget in 2012, according to the city’s 2012 final budget document, which can be found on the Black Diamond website, www.ci.blackdiamond.wa.us. It is the single largest expenditure for the city.
The public safety fund expenditure, which includes court services, fire, police, utilities and animal control, was 57.4 percent.
Maple Valley’s 2012 public safety expenditures was a little more than $4 million, 21 percent of its $19 million budget.
Contact Covington Reporter Reporter TJ Martinell at email@example.com or 425-432-1209 ext. 5052.