Protesters picket in Coupeville over possible cuts to sheriff's office

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by DEBORAH FELDMAN / KING 5 News

NWCN.com

Posted on December 28, 2009 at 8:37 AM

Updated Monday, Dec 28 at 1:52 PM

COUPEVILLE, Wash. - Nick and Veronica Crownover say it's great having a dad who's a deputy.

"I feel really proud of him because he protects our community," said Veronica.

But they also say it can be tough.

"It's kind of hard sometimes because you never know if he's going to be OK or not," said Veronica.

On Monday, the Crownover kids joined dozens of others to voice their concern about possible cuts to the sheriff department.

"Well, there will be less police officers and when my dad goes to dangerous calls, it'll be more dangerous," said Veronica.

Sheriff Mark Brown says when he took office two years ago he hoped to add 13 commissioned officers. Instead, he's lost four and now may lose two more.

"I don't have a crime prevention officer, I really don't have a large traffic team, I don't have a SWAT team, when you cut the Island County Sheriff's Office, you're cutting the response levels of basic response times to get to emergencies," said Brown.

The commissioners have asked Brown to trim 5 percent of his $5 million budget, and now appear unwilling to agree to his suggestion of saving the money by laying off a records clerk and their director of emergency management.

The sheriff says his only other alternative would be to cut two officers, which might sound small, but in reality amounts to losing 12 percent of their commissioned work force over the past two years.

The equivalent percentage cut for the Seattle Police Department would be to lay off 158 officers.

On Monday a small group of counter-picketers held signs to support the county commissioners, some who ventured outside to speak with the much larger, but otherwise silent group representing the Sheriff's Guild.

"Island County has the lowest tax rate in the whole state. Thankfully we also have the fourth lowest crime rate," Helen Price-Johnson, Island County Commissioner.

One commissioner said she's hopeful the sheriff can trim money without cutting jobs, but insists they have to share the pain.

"The reality is there's a $5.2 million cut to Island County's budget in just a year and a half's time, every other department in the county has been cut drastically," said Commissioner Angie Homola.

A final public hearing on the budget was scheduled for 2:15 p.m. Monday in Coupeville.


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