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Sequim police fill in the gaps
To replenish their force, two Sequim Police officers recently were promoted to sergeant. Two additional officers have been conditionally hired pending completion of police academy.
New sergeants Darrell Nelson and Mike Hill take the place of retired Sgt. Don Reidel and Sgt. Ken Almberg while Kindryn Domning, a two-year reserve, goes to the police academy on Sept. 25 to fill another vacancy created when Officer Anthony Graham transferred Aug. 30.
Police Chief Bill Dickinson swore in the three on Friday, Sept. 13, in the Sequim Transit Center.
“We almost never hire,” Dickinson said. “It’s an anomaly to lose three people simultaneously,”
Dickinson said Almberg’s retirement was planned but Reidel’s and Graham’s departures weren’t. Reidel left for a new job in Helena, Mont., as a federal police officer for the United States Department of Veterans Affairs.
To replace the sergeants, Dickinson opened up the jobs in-house with four applying. The Sequim Police Department employs 18 officers — 10 patrol officers, three patrol sergeants, one detective sergeant, two detectives, a deputy chief and a chief.
With three vacancies, Dickinson said he offered conditional positions to Domning and Douglas Rhoades of Kitsap County so long as they complete the 16-week academy training.
Rhoades must wait until January for an academy opening.
Domning will be in the field training with another officer for another three months once she completes the academy, Dickinson said.
He estimates she will be in the field by May. Rhoades is tentatively scheduled to be active bu late summer.
Nelson’s detective position will remain vacant for a while, Dickinson said unless he finds someone qualified from another department.
“We try to hire local people with ties to the community,” he said. “We have a good reputation because we hire locally. A lot of folks grew up here and have kids who live here.”
Until the conditional hires are in place, Dickinson said the department will run shorthanded and pay overtime to officers, which they always budget for.
Dickinson said with fewer officers, the police will have less of a presence at certain times which could affect response time depending on the situations.
“We try to have two officers on at a time and there will always be one,” he said.
About the promoted
Hill started as a Sequim Police Department reserve officer in 1998 before being going full-time in 2001.
He’s served as the K-9 officer since 2005 and with Chase, the K-9, since 2008. Hill received his certified master handler status in 2009 and 2011 and was certified as a master patrol officer in 2010 (the only officer with that certification).
Hill said he applied for the sergeant position at the suggestions of some of his mentors and to increase his contributions to the city. He plans to continue his services with Chase as the K-9 unit. “I’ve spent more time with him than anything else,” Hill said.
Nelson joined the Sequim Police Department in 2005. He applied for the position out of his passion for supervisory work following his time as a sergeant in the U.S. Army.
In his tenure, he’s represented the City of Sequim on the Regional Drug Task Force, as a field training officer, school resource officer and firearms tactics training officer. He became a detective in 2010.
“This is an exciting time in the 100-year history of the Sequim Police Department as we promote two of Sequim’s finest to new levels of responsibility,” Dickinson said.
“I am confident these two new supervisors will be instrumental in continuing to move our department effectively into the future without losing the high level of personal service you can only find in cities like Sequim.”
Dickinson, going into his fourth year here, said crime has been business as usual with the most prevalent being property crimes, mostly stealing alcohol from stores.
“The good news is we have a low violent crime rate,” he said. “In most cases of theft people are leaving keys in cars or (thieves) are putting screwdrivers in ignitions. Unfortunately, a lot of thefts are easy to do.”
However, he doesn’t think thefts are pervasive.
“Property crimes are higher in the city. You can’t steal from Costco in Carlsborg because it’s in the city. People have to come into the city to steal things,” he said.
At one point, Sequim was on a five-year plan under former chief Robert Spinks, which Dickinson said moved the department into a large city plan.
“Bob Spinks was reacting to the mid-2000s’ growth when things were going crazy. Fields were being developed and the town was building up,” he said. “The assumption was that would continue.”
At the city’s peak, it had 23 officers but was at 19 when Dickinson started. He made the decision to cut a public information officer position due to budget cuts but he reassigned her as a patrol officer after she went to the academy.
“We haven’t grown but we haven’t had to lose anyone else,” he said.
School resource officer
One position that might reappear is a school resource officer.
The City of Sequim and the Sequim School District last split the cost of an officer in the 2008-2009 school year before budget issues forced both to scale back.
Dickinson said the city applied for a federal grant that runs three years with the first two covered at 75 percent and 50 percent the third year. The city and schools would split the costs those three years and beyond.
But Dickinson said he’s not certain what to expect as the federal government made significant cuts to its budget with major repercussions for local police departments.
“I remain optimistic,” he said.
Elray Konkel, Sequim administrative services director, said what the city receives from the federal government in grants for the police is nominal.
Konkel said they’ll know by the end of the month or early October if the grant goes through and if the position is something they can budget for with it costing upwards of $100,000 for salary, insurance, equipment and a car.
“Without the grant, it’s going to be much more challenging,” Konkel said.
If the grant goes through, the police department would like to begin the hiring process in January, Dickinson said.
Sequim Superintendent Kelly Shea said a school resource officer won’t happen this year. He’s reassured Dickinson that if the grant did go through, the district would find the money to help pay for the position.
When the previous school resource officer position was cut, the police opted to have the officer’s (Graham) schedule mirror the school day.
“The problem was that if there was a shoplifting call or an accident, or a domestic violence call, he’s rolling on all those calls,” Dickinson said. “When he’s not on a call, he was trying to be as present as possible.”
Dickinson said it made sense to keep an officer on with the schools’ schedule because they’d still receive calls for things like theft, bullying, assaults and parental situations.
“Schools often times need us to mediate,” Dickinson said.
“With a dedicated officer, we can integrate them into the schools and teach, counsel for bullying and deal with kids doing illegal things.”
He mentioned DARE, a common public school drug prevention program, and how it’s not the same program it was 20 years ago.
“It talks about life decisions now with pot, drugs in general, tobacco, bullying, premarital sex and helps them (teens) make intelligent decisions,” Dickinson said. “It gives kids some armor to deflect those bad decisions.”
Dickinson added that a school resource officer could help the school combat dropout rates by finding truant students and drug abuse (Clallam County has the highest opiate death rate in the state).