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Law enforcement fate up to Coupeville Town Council

Coupeville Deputy Marshal Hodges Gowdey poses for a photo on Main Street. A proposal concerning the management of the Coupeville Marshal
Coupeville Deputy Marshal Hodges Gowdey poses for a photo on Main Street. A proposal concerning the management of the Coupeville Marshal's Office is now being considered by the town council.
— image credit: Justin Burnett / The Record

The future of the Coupeville Marshal’s Office will be decided in the New Year.

And depending on what option the council members choose, the decision could have a financial benefit for the Island County Sheriff’s Office.

Mayor Nancy Conard said she plans to present council members with two options in January for the marshal’s office, which has suffered from staffing problems since three of four deputies left during a three-month period last year.

“The goal is to restore predictability to the office,” she said.

The first option, she said, is to cut the number of deputy marshals by one and use the extra funds to boost wages. She said making wages competitive with other departments may encourage deputies to stay with the office.

The second option is to contract for services with the Island County Sheriff’s Office to provide coverage.

Conard said the cost for either option is similar, running around $400,000 to $450,000 a year.

“There are pluses on both sides,” she said. “I have not made a recommendation yet.”

Neither option will provide 24-hour, seven-days-a-week patrols in the town, which ended last year when the staffing trouble began.

Under the proposed contract option between the town and the county sheriff’s office, the county would provide the town with two dedicated employees, according to Undersheriff Kelly Mauck with the Island County Sheriff’s Office.

Someone with the rank of sergeant in the Sheriff’s Office would be named as the town marshal, plus a patrol deputy would be assigned to the town.

Mauck said the marshal would look at incident reports to figure out when is the best time to staff the office with the dedicated employees, who will wear “town marshal” uniforms and drive “town marshal” cars.

In addition, the sheriff would add two deputies to the north precinct, which covers North and Central Whidbey Island. The additional bodies on the road, he said, would help ensure that law enforcement is available to respond to calls from Coupeville during the times when the dedicated officers aren’t working.

As things stand now, deputies with the sheriff’s office and the marshal’s office — which are both headquartered in Coupeville — often help each other out by responding to calls in their different jurisdictions, Mauck said.

He said detectives in the sheriff’s office already help the marshal’s office with investigations, which will continue under the proposal.

The marshal’s office currently has two employees, with shifts filled by officers from other departments. The current employees are Marshal Lance Davenport and Deputy Marshal Hodges Gowdey. If the town contracts with the sheriff’s office, they have to be offered jobs with the office under civil service rules, Mauck said.

The positions, however, will be as patrol-level deputies.

Mauck said a contract with Coupeville will also be good for the sheriff’s office, which has suffered from staffing issues in recession-related budget cuts. He said combining some of the administrative functions of law enforcement will provide for some economies of scale.

At the same time, Coupeville leaders will still make policy decisions for the town’s law enforcement.

“The sheriff doesn’t have any interest in defining the priorities of law enforcement for the town,” he said.

 

Community Events, April 2014

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