Following nearly a year of planning and discussions, the Pierce County Peninsula Detachment added three new deputies to its staff in November. The detachment, which serves the Gig Harbor and Key Peninsula areas, now has 24-hour police patrol, eliminating a complaint residents have had for years about lack of continuous coverage. In addition, a new lieutenant assigned to the detachment will take over the operations, allowing Sgt. Ross Herberholtz to spend more time in the field instead of the office.
But the change has drawbacks. officers will be spread thinner.
“There are less deputies on the road than before,” Herberholtz said. “The two shifts earlier allowed for at least three deputies on the road, four sometimes.” The new distribution will have two threedeputy teams per shift, but due to vacation, sick leave and other absences often times only two officers will patrol at a time, one of them on the Key Pen and the other in Gig Harbor.
“Realistically, we need six to eight more officers to really function where the deputies can have backup…but we’ll take what we can get,” he said.
In theory, the response time should have been reduced after more staff was added, but Herberholtz said gauging the impact would take a while. What the detachment has observed, however, is that as of mid-December, a month and a half after coverage was added between 3 a.m. and 6 a.m. — which previously had no officers on duty — not a single call was made during that time.
But the hours aren’t really wasted. Officers are able to do more surveillance during down time, patrol local businesses and perform other activities they can’t do during peak call time. They have even made arrests during those hours as a result of the surveillance, Herberholtz said.
The new staffing was a result of special funding approved by Pierce County Council following city of Lakewood’s move to provide its own police force instead of using the county’s. Councilman Terry Lee had brought up the need for extra police on the west side of the Tacoma Narrows Bridge at last year’s council retreat. When the deputies became available from Lakewood, the county decided to add 24-hour patrols to the areas that didn’t have it. Although the voters turned down a “cop tax” to fund the move, officials found funding—at least for 2005.
That required sacrifices. Funding was reduced for pre-trial services staff and miscellaneous programs, Lee said. The county also will no longer contract with the Humane Society to do animal licensing, and the county auditor’s office will take over the license processing sometimes this year, he said. Herberholtz said he has pushed for 24-hour staffing for years, and overall the change is positive. When Lt. Larry Bauer takes the helm of the Peninsula Detachment, the department will see additional benefits with Herberholtz spending all his time in the field as a firstlevel supervisor. His main job will be to supervise officers and respond to calls with them, instead of crunching numbers and dealing with personnel and administrative matters. Bauer, a Gig Harbor area resident who was a deputy with the detachment earlier in his career, was expected to start his new duties on Jan. 3.
Lee says he hopes for one more addition by the end of the year: a Key Peninsula dispatch. “I think their presence and visibility will be a deterrent (to crime),” he said.