Everett Council reverses, agrees to take grant that would pay for up to 16 police officers
EVERETT — The City Council voted 6-1 to authorize taking a $6 million federal COPS grant that pays to add up to 16 police officers for Everett Police.
The second try was a reconsideration action after a council majority blocked it from moving forward last week over concerns about the city’s share of budget costs.
Empowered with more information through one-on-one meetings with city officials, the decision to approve appeared resolved for many of the council members who hesitated previously, based on their comments.
The lone “no” vote was from Councilwoman Liz Vogeli.
Councilmen Scott Bader and Jeff Moore were all-in from the get-go. Council members Scott Murphy, Brenda Stonecipher, Judy Tuohy and Paul Roberts raised concern to the long-term budget effects at a prior meeting.
Their hesitation came from the bigger picture issue of spending more on police while the city’s been cutting services elsewhere to balance its budget. (For 2021’s budget, the city may make $10 million in balancing reductions, including by continuing most of its 2020 cutbacks. See story in the Sept. 9 Tribune.)
At last week’s meeting, they felt more reassured.
Council members also seemed to gain more clarity about a spreadsheet that suggests an $8.5 million outlay from the city’s general fund caused by taking the $6 million grant. It wasn’t what it seemed, but really just “a worst-case scenario,” as how Stonecipher described it.
Police Chief Dan Templeman intends to use the money to beef up the bicycle patrol unit by making its footprint citywide, as well as adding officers to its traffic unit and add more patrol officers during peak times.
Vogeli said she voted against the grant because of its long-range budget impacts.
“With a fully staffed department, whose obligation it is to investigate felonies, violent crimes, and so forth, we would not need more community policing and the city could work on funding and finding grants for building community by the community,” Vogeli said. “I can’t, in good conscience, advise the acceptance of a grant that will burden our already decimated budget and not actually reduce crime.”
City leaders emphasized that the grant has flexibility.
It could use the money to hire up to 16 officers, but also has the right to hire none at all. The city also could wait three years before making its first grant-funded hire.
The City Council would be approached again to decide when the police department requests hiring a grant-funded officer, city officials said.
One stipulation is it commits the city to keep paying for each grant-hired officer for 12 months after the position’s grant funding runs out after three years.
One budget idea Templeman suggested is to alternate the hiring pattern when filling vacant positions. Doing so means the department would hire one grant-funded officer, and then one regularly funded officer, and so forth. In the city budget, the vacancies are already accounted for on paper.
The COPS grant pays for salaries and benefits only. The city’s share of costs would be to cover academy training, equipment, uniforms and related costs.
“Accepting this grant, as the chief pointed out, doesn’t obligate us to spend one dollar,” Councilman Murphy said. “I’m very glad to see this come back.”
Before they had more answers, Murphy and Stonecipher had written a joint letter to the public sharing great concern about the projected $8.5 million in outlay costs over a six-year period.
Immigration enforcement clause explained
Last week, Templeman also addressed a clause on sharing police data with Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) in the federal grant: The department does not have officers certified to do citizenship enforcement, nor is it required to, so taking the grant won’t change the Police Department’s approach on the topic, the chief said.
“I want to make clear this has no impact on the Everett Police Department’s policies,” the chief said. “Our policy is Everett Police officers will not undertake immigration investigations.” He added that the department doesn’t plan to add officers who can do citizenship enforcement.
The COPS grant clause says the police department can’t be prohibited from doing citizenship enforcement because of local or state laws — like what happens in a “sanctuary city,” which Everett is not
— but it doesn’t say anything about police departments that simply don’t do the checks.
Some of the public comments during the past weeks opposed the police department taking the grant because of the immigration enforcement clause.
As of the last budget cycle, the department is budgeted for 206 commissioned officers, of which 164 are rank-and-file officers, 26 are sergeants, eight are lieutenants and four are captains.
The public inundated the council with emails and phone calls after a council majority effectively prevented taking the matter to a vote at its Aug. 26 meeting. At that meeting, a motion to approve didn’t receive a procedural second to call a vote.
The topic popped onto the Sept. 2 council agenda a day before the meeting. City Council President Tuohy said Councilmembers Stonecipher and Murphy requested her to put it on the agenda for reconsideration, which had the consensus of other council members.
If it hadn’t gone to a vote, the deadline to accept the $6 million grant would have passed without setting up an emergency meeting. The deadline was Sept. 8.
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