Two representatives from the sheriff’s office will hold a public meeting on Vashon Wednesday night with the goal of increasing communication and building relationships with islanders.
Captain Ted Boe, the operations captain for the King County Sheriff’s Office Precinct 4, which includes Vashon, and Sgt. Jeff Cunningham, Vashon’s liaison to the office, will lead the meeting. The focus will be on general operations and current crime statistics on the island, officer conduct and the complaint investigation process, and citizen rights when interacting with the police. There will also be time for a general question-and-answer session, Boe said, noting the meeting is also intended to be a time for community members to speak up about what kind of policing they would like on the island.
“We are interested in having an open dialogue,” he added.
The idea of a community meeting came up recently when an islander reached out to him on behalf of residents who had questions and concerns about policing on Vashon, Boe said. He and Cunningham came out to the island, met with the group and determined a community meeting would be a good idea — one they hope to repeat on a quarterly basis.
“It was really apparent that there is information sharing that we are failing at. This seemed like an opportunity to address that,” he said.
In addition to Vashon, Precinct 4 includes Skyway, White Center, Kent, Boulevard Park and Federal Way. In some of those communities, Boe noted, there are storefront police stations and community service officers, who serve as liaisons between various community groups and the sheriff’s office, but Vashon does not have those same kind of networks, making communication more difficult.
Vashon’s crime rate is significantly different than in other communities in the precinct, he added, calling it “striking” how low the call volume is on the island compared to elsewhere in the county. Despite the relatively small amount of crime, he said there are unique law enforcement challenges on the island, including that some people do not want to be seen as assisting sheriff’s deputies in a community where “everybody knows everybody.”
He added that he knows some law enforcement issues, such as traffic, are of particular importance to islanders and that the social side of policing, with residents having relationships with the deputies who work on the island, is also valued.
“My guess is we need a very different kind of policing (on Vashon),” he said.
To some degree, services can be tailored to residents’ requests, he added, though there are limitations, including budgetary constraints. Still, he said, he and Cunningham genuinely want to hear from people at this meeting and those that will follow.
Sometimes law enforcement officials do not engage and share information, he added.
“This is my effort to break some of that,” he said.
The meeting will be at 6:30 p.m. Wednesday, Jan. 13, at McMurray Middle School.