West Richland Police Chief Brian McElroy would like to have a minimum of two police officers on duty at all times in the city.
It's a hope that is pinned on whether Benton County voters pass a 0.3 percent public safety sales tax, which would allow West Richland to add up to four officers.
"Many times we should be higher than that, but at minimum two officers on shift 24 hours a day every day in the year," McElroy said.
Only one officer was on duty in the city for more than four hours during more than 150 shifts last year, he said.
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If a lone officer makes an arrest and has to transport someone to the jail, that leaves no one on duty in town unless someone is called in on overtime, McElroy said.
West Richland is budgeted to have up to 16 commissioned officers, including the chief and captain. But the department has been down about two officers on average in the past year because of attrition.
As a relatively small bedroom community of 13,500, the wages and benefits West Richland can offer are on the lower end, McElroy said. The city doesn't have the sales tax base that the rest of the Tri-Cities does.
Its proximity to Kennewick, Richland and Pasco puts it at a slight disadvantage, although there are people who would rather serve in a smaller community, he said.
Revenue from the proposed sales tax would not be enough for West Richland to fully equip the new officers, McElroy said. The city also will likely have higher jail costs because with more officers, the department can be proactive, which would lead to more arrests.
McElroy has requested adding two officers in 2015 and two more in 2016, should the sales tax be approved. West Richland also will need to add at least a half-time support position to deal with the increased workload, McElroy said.
-- Kristi Pihl: 509-582-1512; firstname.lastname@example.org