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Joining Forces
Towns talk policing

photoWinthrop Marshal David Dahlstrom

A Winthrop Town Council discussion on disbanding Winthrop’s marshal’s office triggered a plea by Town Marshal David Dahlstrom to be included in the deliberations.

Dahlstrom’s request came at Wednesday’s council meeting during a report by council member Rick Northcott, who was delegated by the council to pursue policing solutions for the town. He has been in exploratory talks with members of the Twisp town council about the possibility of having Winthrop contract for police services with Twisp.

Okanogan County Sheriff Frank Rogers “was not interested in contracting at all,” Northcott reported. “Frank Rogers says no. There’s nothing in it for him. Unless Frank Rogers wants to do that, it won’t happen.”

Northcott said he then approached Twisp town officials to see if they thought the two police departments might join forces in some way. He suggested a merger and said that “I still think it might be the best way to go.” But obstacles to creating a new, unified department led to the conclusion that having one town contract for services with the other is a better solution, he said.

Northcott said that for him Winthrop’s substandard marshal’s office space and lack of a jail were determining factors in deciding it was best for Winthrop to contract with Twisp rather than visa-versa. At the moment, Winthrop, a town of 400 people, has three full-time officers and Twisp, a town of nearly 1,000, has two full-time officers.

photoWinthrop Councilmember Rick Northcott

Twisp town councilman Clint Estes, who has been representing Twisp in the law enforcement talks, said during a Twisp council retreat in March that Twisp wouldn’t contract with Winthrop as the lead agency because “They don’t have anybody to run a department that we would buy into.”

Town officials said the talks were triggered by a need to save money. Winthrop Mayor Dave Acheson said the arrangement would mean the towns would “spend the same money but get better coverage.”

Acheson said that he and Twisp Mayor Soo Ing-Moody agree that “If this is going to work, everybody involved has to be totally comfortable with it.” He added that while he’s unsure when the new policing arrangement might happen, “I think it will happen.” Acheson’s term expires at the end of 2013 and he has said he will not seek re-election.

Northcott told the council he thought that if the decision is made to go ahead, the contract arrangement could be in place by early next year. But he added, “We don’t have to go down this road.” And he said that before any action is taken, a public meeting should be held to hear citizen input.

Northcott also cited officer turnover, an expensive problem for small towns such as Winthrop, as an argument for getting out of the policing business.

Dahlstrom told the council that the town would lose officers “if you don’t have good leadership.” He added: “I think we’re addressing that need here in Winthrop.”

Dahlstrom was suspended for a week without pay in January of 2012 for returning to duty after consuming alcohol. He was also given a separate written reprimand for carrying alcohol in his police car.

The marshal told the council that he did not think Winthrop’s lack of proper police facilities should be the deciding factor in seeking to contract with Twisp.

photoTwisp Police Chief Paul Budrow

At Northcott’s request, Dahlstrom has not attended any of the joint policing meetings with the Twisp council members. Northcott said that was because “I don’t want to involve any personalities.” However, he confirmed that Twisp Police Chief Paul Budrow has attended two meetings of the group.

“It seems strange to me if Twisp’s officers are included in meetings and ours are not,” said council member Gaile Bryant-Cannon.

“I could care less if he was there,” Northcott said of Budrow.

Budrow has requested that Winthrop’s officers not respond to Twisp calls unless they specifically are requested to do so, citing what he said was an instance of unprofessional behavior by Winthrop officers responding to a call in Twisp.

“I want to give you all the facts. I want to be an asset to the citizens,” Dahlstrom told the council. As town marshal, he said he has information on subjects such as police coverage needs for the town and asked for an opportunity to provide input for use in contract negotiations. “If you want information,” he said, “I’m that guy.”

The council, which was given two sample policing contracts for study,  took no action but will discuss the issue again at a future council meeting, said Acheson.


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