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No Winthrop Marshal?
Possible joint policing

photoThe Winthrop marshal’s office is in the basement of town hall. The space is cramped and not handicapped accessible.

Winthrop could dissolve its marshal’s office and contract with Twisp for police services “as early as next year” if a contract can be negotiated, according to Winthrop town councilman Rick Northcott. 

Twisp would be in charge of hiring the department’s officers and providing police service to Winthrop, said Northcott, and Twisp Mayor Ing-Moody would remain in charge of the Twisp police department, he told Grist Tuesday (April 23).

“The devil is in the details,” said Northcott, who has been meeting as part of a committee with Twisp town council members Clint Estes and Bob Lloyd to explore options for joint policing of the two towns. “We’re basically going to go with the contracting” option, said Northcott. Lloyd reported to the Twisp town council Tuesday that the committee has taken “the first step to contracting.”

By the time the Winthrop town council begins its budgeting process in October, Northcott said he expects that the parties will have settled on the level of services to be provided and at what cost.

But the mayors of both towns seemed to have a slightly different perspective on the timing.

Winthrop Mayor Dave Acheson told Grist that the joint policing effort “has taken on more of a sense of immediacy than it should have. As of yesterday we are fully staffed. It’s not something we have to figure out how to make happen in the next year or six months,” he said.

photoWinthrop Town Councilman Rick Northcott

Acheson characterized the ongoing joint policing talks between the towns as “exploratory…we all recognize that’s where it’s going.” Both town councils “have agreed that it will happen at some point,” he added.

“Policing costs are constantly rising so it makes sense down the road that somehow these two towns will be put together” for policing purposes, Acheson said. “There’s no time table. We’re laying groundwork for the future.”

And in Tuesday’s Twisp town council meeting, Ing-Moody said, “I think it’s going to be a kind of long and deliberate process.”

Last week Ing-Moody told Grist that a consolidation that would unify both departments “is off the table. It seems that Winthrop has decided that consolidation is not an option,” she said.

“We haven’t figured out how to make that [consolidation] work,” Acheson said.

Consolidation would have meant resolving the awkward problem of deciding who would be police chief of a new, unified police department and preventing one town’s mayor from having too much sway over the consolidated police force.

Establishing a neutral police commission to oversee a unified police force was considered as a solution, possibly with elected officials from both towns serving as police commissioners, according to Acheson. But consolidation under a police commission option was dropped when it was learned that no police commissions operate in this state, he said.

Also dropped was the option of contracting for services with the county sheriff’s office, partly due to lack of enthusiasm on the county’s part and also because of high cost, according to Northcott.

Both towns have something to gain by joining forces, the most obvious being fuller police coverage, according to council members in both towns.

Winthrop has no jail space and its officers work out of a cramped, substandard basement office that’s not handicapped accessible. Twisp has jail space. But as of this week, Winthrop, with roughly 400 residents, has more full-time officers than Twisp, with nearly 1,000 residents.

With Deputy Seth Carlson joining Deputy Ken Bajema and Marshal David Dahlstrom this week, Winthrop now has three full-time officers. Twisp has two full-time officers, Police Chief Paul Budrow and Officer Ty Sheehan. Twisp plans to bolster its coverage by hiring part-time officers from other jurisdictions on an as-needed basis, according to Budrow.


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