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Langley police strives for larger budget

In a perfect world, Langley Police Chief Bob Herzberg would have more money for his department.

But in reality at the Langley City Council meeting July 21, Herzberg presented the department’s 2004 budget and told the council approximately how much money the police department will need to stay afloat.

Even with keeping a “skin and bones” budget, Herzberg explained they could use an additional $10,000 a year. Since 2002, the Langley Police Department’s budget has dropped from $293,111 to $286,248 in 2004. Herzberg said there are not many more cuts the department can take before he’s forced to downsize personnel.

“It was not meant to be a push,” he explained in an interview Monday. “But it’s definitely something we need.”

Herzberg said he would like approximately $3,000 towards the creation of a sergeant position for Officer Leif Haugen. Haugen has been with the department for 13 years, and is often left in a supervisory position when he is ill or on vacation, Herzberg explained.

Promoting Haugen to sergeant would formalize and compensate him for much of the work he already does.

“We have the need for supervision when I’m not on duty,” Herzberg said.

With the addition of two new officers in November, Haugen has the most seniority of the city’s three officers and has been active in their training, Herzberg said. Officers Randy Heston and Ben Kokjer replaced Officers Ryan Raulerson and Laura Price, who both resigned to take new positions in September.

“I’ve never had a situation like I have currently,” he said. “In the past we’ve never lost two at the same time.”

Also on the department’s budget is $7,000 a year that goes into a vehicle replacement fund, which Herzberg would like to see raised to $8,000 a year. The department typically replaces the cars around 100,000 miles, but with the type of driving law enforcement puts on them, it is the equivalent to 300,000 miles.

Industry studies on police car use shows the vehicles with the most wear and tear make short trips, are driven slowly, have heavy brake use and frequent idling — which is typically how the Langley Police Department’s four vehicles are driven.

New police vehicles typically cost the department about $18,500, he said. They reuse as much of the old equipment from the old vehicles as they can to keep costs down. If they bought a new, fully equipped car, it may cost around $45,000.

Without saving money every year to replace a car when it has outlasted its use, Herzberg said the department would not come up with the almost $20,000 for a new vehicle on the spot.

Also in the 2004 budget is $600 for training and related travel expenses. Herzberg said he often cannot afford to send more than one officer a year to week-long training through the Criminal Justice Training Commission.

The courses cover techniques and core classes which are essential to keeping the officers knowledgeable and confident in their field, something he says can’t be learned from reading a book.

Should major emergencies occur the department should be able to handle them regardless of the size of the town and police department.

“No matter what, someone needs to come when the phone rings,” Herzberg said. “We don’t know what we’re going to get.”

Langley Mayor Neil Colburn said he hopes the presentations from department heads familiarize the new council with a overview of the departments and their budgets. In addition to getting the council familiar with the staff, he hopes it can help prioritize items for future budget plans later this year.

“I think that more communication that goes on between staff and council the better,” Colburn said.

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