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Islanders pack forum on Bainbridge police issues
The city's police force should resemble Mayberry, instead of Los Angeles, residents said at a packed community forum Friday.
Hosted by the Islanders for Collaborative Policing, the community conversation was prompted in part by a just released survey that shows widespread distrust of Bainbridge police. Some who took the survey complained about the attitude of some officers and said police had been too tough on teenage offenders.
After survey results were presented, one person in the crowd of approximately 60 said the island should be policed like storybook television town in North Carolina where Andy Griffith once wore a badge.
"We live in Mayberry, but we feel like we have the LA swat team here," said island resident Gary Tripp.
"When you aren't making mountains out of molehills and scaring kids to death, you guys are awesome," a woman added.
And when one audience member asked why police don't walk the streets in downtown Winslow, Bainbridge Police Lieutenant Bob Day said officers have done just that.
But police have been criticized for that too.
He told about a fellow officer who pounded the pavement along the Winslow Way recently, and spoke with merchants and locals. The officer returned to his vehicle and found a "nasty gram" reminding him that parking was limited to two hours.
"We kind of get it from both ends," said Day, president of the police guild.
Day's straightforward and frank tone was greeted with laughter and appreciation from the audience. He said he was willing to take the "slings and arrows" because he wanted the community to know that police officers want to improve.
"There is a level of commitment to this community that goes beyond taking a paycheck for a 40-hour work week," Day said. "Guild members want to partner with you folks and make this community better, and make this place safe."
The meeting attracted not only concerned residents, but also three council members — Sarah Blossom, Debbi Lester and Dave Ward — and members of the city's civil service commission, including chairman Bruce Weiland. Officer Mo Stich, a long-time resident of the island, was also in the audience.
Trisha King-Stargel, a criminal justice lecturer at Seattle University, moderated the meeting and lead discussions with panelists.
Wally Jones and Jennifer Weigand of the Poulsbo Community Police Advisory Board recalled their work on the board and offered advice should Bainbridge look into forming its own advisory group. The suggestion proved popular and Day said he could get behind such an idea.
Elena Mastors, dean of the School of Security and Global Studies at the American Military University, an online, for-profit institution, went over the results of the survey conducted by Islanders for Collaborative Policing. The results indicated that many islanders did not trust their police department.
Richard Packard, a local resident and author of the report "Crime on Bainbridge Island 1993-2010," detailed crime rates on the island.
"In plain, raw numbers, Bainbridge Island has one-third of the crime rate of comparable cities," Packard said.
In addition to low violent crime rates, Bainbridge Island also has around half the number of commissioned officers than comparable cities such as Mercer Island or Mountlake Terrace, according to Packard.
Kim Hendrickson, founder of Islanders for Collaborative Policing, said she was happy with the turnout at the event.
"I'm extremely pleased," Hendrickson said. "At one point, we were at standing room only, and it was great to see council members, civil service commission members, and police officers in the audience."
Hendrickson said that the forum was a much-needed conversation.
"I think if we are going to do something with our police it has to be community based," Hendrickson said. "This is the community's police and they have to take pride and ownership in their police."