Vashon deputies will continue to patrol, contrary to reports

Vashon won't be seeing a reduction in its police force any time soon — despite remarks made by King County Sheriff Sue Rahr last week suggesting Vashon could lose both of its patrol officers if county budget cuts go through as planned.

King County Executive Kurt Triplett proposed a county budget last Monday that would cut $4.1 from the King County Sheriff's Office annual budget, forcing the layoffs of 27 deputies.

Rahr spoke to the King County Council on Wednesday, imploring them to re-examine Triplett's proposed cuts.

The Sheriff's Office serve all unincorporated areas of King County, as well as contracts with certain cities to provide patrol services. But deputies won't be able to provide the same level of service if the budget goes forward unchanged, according to Rahr.

"This budget cuts the Sheriff's Office for unincorporated King County by $4.1 million, or nearly 6 percent," she told the King County Council on Wednesday, according to an electronic version of her comments e-mailed to the Beachcomber. "This is unsafe and it’s unacceptable, especially in light of several recent surveys that show overwhelmingly that public safety is the number one priority for the citizens of King County."

More than $3 million in the proposed cuts were attributed to the annexation of formerly unincorporated North Highline into the city of Burien — leaving less unincorporated territory in the southern region of King County.

But were the Sheriff's Office to cut more than $3 million from southwest King County, Rahr said, there would be only 38 deputies to serve Vashon, Boulevard Park, South Park, Skyway and White Center — some of which are areas with high crime.

"That would leave enough to maintain one deputy per shift to cover all of White Center and Boulevard Park, one deputy in Skyway, no deputies on Vashon Island, and no storefront deputies," Rahr told the county council.

But Sheriff's Office spokesperson Sgt. John Urquhart said Thursday that the scenario offered by Rahr is not feasible.

"That will never come true — that was an example she was giving," he said. "We'll clearly not leave Vashon with less than two deputies. The cuts are real, but ... if for no other reason than officer safety, we're always going to have two officers on Vashon."

Instead of cutting 27 deputies from south King County, leaving some neighborhoods dangerously underpatrolled, the Sheriff's Office would reallocate its patrol staff across the county to make up for the lost deputies, Urquhart said.

"The reality is we can draw from other areas, so then they all suffer," he said.

Still, Triplett's proposed budget is far from set in stone. An eight-week period of revision and public review began last week; the King County Council will release its proposed county budget, which replaces the executive's budget, in mid-November.

"We're going to make sure that the sheriff gets the resources that she needs," said James Bush, spokesperson for King County Councilmember Dow Constantine, who represents Vashon as well as West Seattle, Burien, North Highline, the International District and other neighborhoods in southwest King County.

It would be unacceptable for Vashon to go unpatrolled by deputies, Bush said.

"It wouldn't happen," he said.

The Sheriff's Office has a policy of having two officers patrolling a given area at a time, so they can provide backup for each other, Bush said.

"I don't think for a moment that Sheriff Rahr is planning to leave areas uncovered or send officers out there without backup," he said.

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