Ellensburg Reserve Officer

The three-tenths of 1 percent sales tax allows the Ellensburg Police Department to hire a full-time school resource officer, a position currently held by Stephanie Druktenis. The tax is on the ballot for renewal this November.

Editor's note: The election date for the three-tenths of 1 percent sales tax for law enforcement was incorrect in the article published in Thursday's Daily Record. This is a reprint of the article with the correct date.

On Aug. 6, the three-tenths, a tax funding local law enforcement, will be on the ballot again to be approved for another seven years.

The vote renews a three-tenths of 1 percent sales tax, which pays for additional staff in law enforcement agencies, the court system and animal control. The tax is currently set to expire in 2021 if not passed by voters this November.

The original tax passed by 64 percent in 2007 and was passed again in 2014. According to Captain Dan Hansberry with Ellensburg Police Department, the money collected from that tax has allowed EPD to put more boots on the ground and fund specialized programs like an anti-crime unit, a full-time school resource officer and a traffic enforcement officer. Hansberry said one of the greatest ways to make an impact is to have more officers.

The tax also has allowed EPD to create full-time positions, including the school resource officer, allowing EPD to have a day-to-day presence in local schools.

“Prior to this, it was very sporadic, you might have a reserve officer working in a school, but it wasn’t a full school resource officer,” Hansberry said.

According to Hansberry, the officer serves the entire school district, but their function is not just for security reasons. Hansberry went on to further explain that the officer performs a variety of duties such as educating children about law enforcement and crime as well as putting in the face time to make children feel comfortable to come forward when something might be wrong.

According to Hansberry, an issue the department ran into before three-tenths was a lack of flexibility to dedicate officers to specific roles.

“Prior to three-tenths, we just didn’t have the staffing to take on large-scale drug investigations, when we did you’re cherry picking officers from different patrol squads taking them off the street,” Hansberry said.

By adding more officers Hansberry said the department has been able to put more officers on the streets during high volume call times without the risk their attention might be pulled somewhere else to fill in the gaps.

Hansberry said if you were to look at the staffing prior to three-tenths it was inadequate staffing to respond to calls and often saw his officers spending their day prioritizing calls and tied down by call after call. Hansberry said the department handles roughly 17,000 calls a year, which averages out to be about 46 calls a day.

“You miss out on proactive policing, where there’s traffic enforcement, or contacting problem areas of town or being visible in known problem areas,” Hansberry said.

Hansberry says the three-tenths tax is to the benefit of local policing and the community at large.

“It’s those additional programs, officers and bodies,” said Hansberry. “But it’s also combined with the community that we work with.”

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