Leaders with the Arlington Police Department will be busy expanding programs and reach throughout town.
Arlington Police Chief Jonathan Ventura said the department hopes to add another detective in the investigation’s unit, which hasn’t had a new position since 2002.
“The two detectives we have just work their tails off,” Ventura said. “It’s long overdue." In addition, he hopes to increase law enforcement presence in the Smokey Point area.
Arlington Police had a busy year in 2019. While Arlington has the ninth largest population of cities in Snohomish County, Ventura said it was the fourth largest in terms of call volume. He noted that in 1995, the 10 officers comprising the Arlington Police Department responded to 1,164 calls for service. In 2019, 30 officers responded to 29,137 calls for service.
He said the city saw an increase in misdemeanor court filings in 2019. Ventura attributed that increase to several factors. The department reached its full complement of officers in 2019. He said when the department is fully staffed, there is more time for proactive law enforcement that provides more time engaging with the community.
The Arlington Police Department is looking to expand its Law Enforcement Embedded Social Worker program. That program pairs a police officer with a social worker. They venture into the community to connect with people who are homeless or have addiction and mental health issues and connect them with services to get help.
“It’s a much bigger issue county wide and nationwide,” Ventura said. The social worker program made more than 1,200 encounters since it started in 2018. Their efforts led to 62 people getting housing and 35 people completing treatment, according to information from the city of Arlington.
Police officers are also focusing on school safety during 2020, with a priority being speed enforcement. Ventura said speeding is a number-one complaint around schools. School Resource Officers, traffic engineers and the school district will partner to come up with ways to address speeding. Options include using radar devices or seeking grant funding for improved, lighted signs on roads near schools.
Starting March 1, the Arlington Police Department will be using the jail in Everett to house its prisoners and use Cascade District Court, which is located in Arlington, to handle the city’s misdemeanor cases.
The police department is taking steps to improve professional standards and earn accreditation through the Washington Association of Sheriffs and Police Chiefs. To help with that, the department will undergo a peer professional review of the organization. That review will help identify areas of improvement and highlight positive programs and help with achieving accreditation, according to information from the city of Arlington.
“I think it’s important to have that outside review,” Ventura said.
The Arlington Police Department is also instituting violence de-escalation and mental health training as required by the Law Enforcement Training and Community Safety Act. It requires officers to receive 40 hours of training every three years. Ventura said the requirement is an unfunded mandate for smaller police departments. The department is looking to develop its own in-house trainer to help meet requirements.
Retention and recruitment of officers continues to be a challenge due to the narrative surrounding law enforcement in general, low unemployment rate and the higher salaries offered at other departments such as some in California offering $180,000 a year in compensation.
Ventura said the city’s population could grow by 4,000 to 5,000 people in the coming year.
He said departments in the county are dealing with the same challenges and it takes two years to find, hire and train an officer before starting their duties in Arlington.
“It’s a calling and it’s a very noble calling,” Ventura said.