LFP Police Staying Progressive in a Changing World
At last evening's city council meeting, Chief Harden presented information to the council members about potentially implementing some new tools:
- A marine patrol boat
- A UAV/sUAS/Drone program
- A K9 dog program
- A traffic motorcycle program
- An eBike program
Chief Harden mentioned there are potential grants available for some of these tools.
Chief Harden mentioned he was a K9 officer in the past and how beneficial having a K9 officer dog can be for community outreach and doing what dogs do best: sniffing, pursuing, and intimidating when needed. Since I've personally monitored LFP police radio activity over the past 40+ years, I can attest that when a K9 unit is needed, the response time can be 20 minutes or more, depending on the closest available K9 from a nearby police agency. A quick response is necessary for officers to successfully set-up a containment area around the suspect. Among their many uses, finding suspects on the run from police is one of their strong points.
Using a K9 can help protect the suspect, the officers, and the public. The dog can often find the suspect and keep them at bay until officers arrive, de-escalating the situation.
Along similar lines, a police drone program also has many benefits. Once again, I've heard live over the police radio that a drone officer from a nearby police agency can be 20 minutes away. According to the presentation above, drones can be used for:
- Search and rescue
- Storm damage assessment (emergency management assistance)
- Specific law enforcement operations
- Tactical operation overwatch, high-risk search warrant operations, and suspect apprehension
- Incident de-escalation and communications with armed or barricaded subjects
- Can sometimes be used to track fleeing vehicles (pursuit mitigation/de-escalation
- Provide real-time information to officers on the ground
- Interior building searches on suspected burglary or other reported criminal events
- Lost child, endangered adult, or dangerous animal incidents
- Swimmer/boater in distress calls, to include drowning events
- Major incident documentation, to include outdoor crime scenes and significant collisions
LFP Police Chief Harden and Sgt. Adams have been working on a UAV policy that will include specific guidance for use to address 4th Amendment and privacy concerns, according to the presentation. Sgt. Adams has been trained as an sUAS program administrator. Grant funds will be sought through the North Sound Police Foundation, resulting in no cost to the public.
A marine unit was also discussed, citing the following benefits to the city:
- Safety for citizens utilizing the water
- Municipal code enforcement
- Increased public activity along the north shore after the waterfront park opens
On May 23rd, 2021, the City Council passed a law that states just having a life jacket aboard personal watercraft (paddleboards, kayaks, etc) is no longer enough. You can be cited if you're not wearing the life jacket. See the previous article here.
Bringing back a motorcycle traffic officer was also presented to the City Council. Mayor Dave Johnson commented that 30+ years ago, LFP had the reputation you speed, you'll get a ticket, and that concept has waned in recent years. Anyone who was in LFP at that time can attest to this (including the author). It was mentioned that LFP hasn't had a dedicated traffic officer for a while, and Chief Harden would like to be able to have one again.
Current council member and Mayoral candidate Tom French mentioned at the candidate forum on October 9, 2023, at Thir Place Commons, that traffic cameras were now authorized to be placed on Ballinger Way. The assumption is that the State had to approve their use.
We've contacted Deputy Mayor French outside of regular business hours to find out if the City plans to install any and will update this article when we hear back.