Hope remains for two deputies

By Meg Olson

Posted

Point Roberts will likely keep its two resident deputies after a split county council voted to reverse a potential cut of one position.

At a November 12 budget meeting, Whatcom County Council member Kathy Kershner made a motion to fund the second deputy position, which had been part of the cuts in the budget sheriff Bill Elfo had presented to council to address an anticipated shortfall in anticipated tax revenue in 2021.

“For decades, the Sheriff’s Office has addressed unique geography, vulnerability and policing needs at Point Roberts through the assignment of two resident deputies who engage in community policing,” Elfo wrote in an October letter explaining the potential elimination of the position. “These deputies are supplemented by additional Sheriff’s Office resources. Due to projections regarding declines in anticipated tax revenue, we were instructed to prepare for expenditure reduction scenarios that will impact on our ability to provide services county-wide. (…) Even in one of the better budget reduction scenarios, there remains a possibility of eliminating at least one Point Roberts Deputy. If this occurs, we will attempt to supplement the reduction with other Sheriff’s Office resources and advocate for the restoration of the position as soon as fiscal circumstances permit. We are currently working to re-allocate some federal funding we receive for border area patrols for more directed patrols in the Point Roberts area that should help maintain visibility and availability.”

At the November 12 meeting, Kershner made the argument that funding the second deputy for the Point was vital to adequate public safety, asking Elfo what would happen if a domestic violence 911 call came in and the single deputy on the Point was tied up on another call, transporting someone in custody to Bellingham or had a day off.

Elfo replied and said the sheriff’s office would send a deputy from the county, which would be adequate for many calls, but not all.

“It’s unpredictable violent crimes we need to get to quickly,” he said. Even with two resident deputies, Elfo said there are times when Point Roberts is not covered. Council member Carol Frazey suggested that the border patrol was available for backup in Point Roberts. “The border patrol cannot be relied upon for any kind of timely response,” Elfo said.

Frazey and council member Tyler Byrd said they would not vote to fund the position in the current budget but that the positions could be reinstated as funding permitted.

Kershner said the county would be saving money through the consolidation of 911 operations that could save enough to cover the $114,000 annual cost of the second deputy on the Point as well as another specialty position that deals specifically with property crimes.

Council voted 4-2 with one absence to put the funds to keep the second deputy in Point Roberts back in the budget, though that remains contingent on final budget approval. “I remain optimistic that will occur,” Elfo said.

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