Guest Opinions

West Richland needs a new police station

A look inside the West Richland Police Department

A look into the West Richland police Department building. West Richland Police Department is asking voters to sign off on a $12.5 million bond to build a new building.
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A look into the West Richland police Department building. West Richland Police Department is asking voters to sign off on a $12.5 million bond to build a new building.

I have the honor of serving as the police chief for West Richland. My family has lived in the Tri Cities for 40 years. In that time, we have witnessed the growth in our city firsthand with both pride and trepidation.

People want to live in West Richland for good reasons. Our community has consistently supported the increase in demand for services through its schools, libraries, parks and roads. This has made our city one of the best places to raise a family, and one of the safest communities in the state.

Effective policing is not about car chases and breaking down doors. It’s about building relationships in the community to identify possible issues, mitigating those issues before something happens and connecting people to support services as needed. It can include arresting or monitoring people who have committed a crime and meticulous records keeping to assist our judicial system in prosecuting people who have made our community less safe.

My goal as police chief is to make sure that our officers have the tools they need to be successful in these areas. The one area that hinders our ability to provide effective policing services is our current police facility. This is why I brought forth to council the current police facility bond that will be presented to the voters of West Richland for consideration.

A significant amount of planning went into the proposal on your ballot for a larger, secure police facility. An independent community group recommended a larger facility, and we have drafted site plans for what that will contain.

The cost of the proposal is approximately $0.42 cents per $1,000 of assessed property value. This would equate to $42 per $100,000 of your property, or $3.50 per month. This information, including a calculator specific for your property, can be found on our website at www.westrichland.org.

Space constraints are a significant issue. We have four police officers assigned to each work station. Parole officers must meet with offenders in the parking lot or hallway for their regular check-ins. We have just one interview room, which means multiple suspects must be held in someone’s office or a patrol car until the room is available.

The interview room itself is not secure, and suspects could bolt into public areas. I worry about the safety of people in our lobby and also our administrative staff in these situations. Our evidence room also doesn’t meet accreditation standards, which impacts our ability to support prosecutors in their work.

Officers have no shower or decontamination facilities in which to wash off bodily fluids or other substances they come into contact with on a daily basis. Community members also have expressed concern that our current kennel facilities for Animal Control are not humane.

Former Police Chief Mike Noski, who passed away this year, said the current facility was inadequate 20 years ago. Since that time, the city population has increased 115 percent and we’re still in the same facility. Policing has gotten harder, and we want to do better for our community and its officers.

Ballots will be sent out around April 5, and are due back to the county by April 23 by 8:00 p.m. You can mail them by that date, or place them in two ballot drop box locations at the current police station (3805 Van Giesen Street), or the Municipal Services Building (3100 Belmont Boulevard) in West Richland.

The city of West Richland is a special place, and our public facilities should reflect and support the quality of our community. Thank you for considering our request.

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