When I ran for office in 2017, a part of my platform was a move to a community model of policing. At that time, we as a community knew that if we wanted our policing tactics to change to address racial inequities in the system, this was the first step in that direction.
In April of 2019, we delivered on that promise by proposing a restructuring of MRPD through the FY2020 budget.
The restructuring seized on opportunities to cut overhead, by eliminating the vacant Deputy Chief position which, for a city our size, created a top-heavy structure. Coupled with a restructuring of existing staff, this cost-neutral move led to the creation of two lieutenant level positions to lead two new distinct branches within MRPD – a patrol-based function and a new community policing and administrative function. The former retained the patrol levels the city has enjoyed over the past few years, while the latter resulted in the creation of both a Detective and Community Policing Officer position.
Having our own detective has helped the city address criminal activity faster and allowed for quicker follow-up with victims of crime. In addition, the focus on community policing has helped us build better relationships with businesses, residents, and schools alike. While MRPD is a small force, many of you have started to notice how these efforts have led to seeing more of our officers on foot, whether on the sidewalk in front of your house or in our businesses.
All of these changes helped expand the eyes and ears of the department’s reach into the community while simultaneously increasing trust in our police. And in opening new positions within MRPD, it gives our staff more varied promotion opportunities or the chance to learn new skills, aiding in recruiting and retaining officers.
Another part of that budget was creating a social service coordinator position within MRPD to assist needy residents in getting the help they need from the county, state, or federal programs. Their position within MRPD enabled our officers to not just show up to a scene, but direct those who need help to someone who can help them. It also helped us start to create a culture where our officers could arrive on scene with another option for someone who may be better served with assistance from a social worker rather than assistance from an enforcement officer. Bottom line, it's a better way to serve all our residents.
All of these changes took place before 2020 turned police reform into a national rallying cry. While we are proud that Mount Rainier was ahead of the curve, we know that more must be done. That's why I have started conversations with our neighboring jurisdictions - Brentwood, North Brentwood, Cottage City, and Colmar Manor - to see if we could partner on more alternative policing solutions. The end goal? To see if we can consolidate our police forces to cut overhead and create the economies of scale necessary to invest in both: (i) more officers on the beat who are better trained and compensated (increasing recruitment and retention); and (ii) alternative policing models like the CAHOOTS model in Eugene, Oregon that take our investments in social work a step further.