New Lakewood Police Department on track

City officials are hard at work as the Jan. 5, 2005 operational date approaches.

If all goes according to plan, at this time next year the City of Lakewood will have its own police department.

During the last eight years, Lakewood has contracted for police services with the Pierce County Sheriff’s Department. The police services contract expires at the end of this year.

An update on the police department’s progress was the subject of Thursday’s general membership meeting of the Lakewood Chamber of Commerce.

Members and guests in attendance at the Grand Central Casino enjoyed a spaghetti lunch as Candice Bock, Lakewood community relations manager, and Lakewood Sheriff Larry Saunders detailed the steps being taken to make sure the new department is fully operational by the Jan. 1, 2005 target date.

“We’ve been working very hard to establish this police department,” Bock said.

The main goal of the new department, she said, is to provide at least the same level of service Lakewood residents currently receive at a lower cost.
The new department is estimated to have an initial operating budget of $12.6 million – there will be a one-time startup cost of $5.5 million – with 110 staff including 95 commissioned officers, nine community service officers and six civilians.

Currently, there are 101 officers that work in Lakewood, with an operating budget of $13.7 million.

Lakewood is focused on creating a police department that can respond to the unique needs of its citizens, Saunders said, with the department continuing to focus on building the community, creating partnerships and involving citizens to lower the crime rate and make Lakewood safer.

The cornerstone of the new Lakewood Police Department is the desire to provide the best service possible to all Lakewood’s residents.

“We will stay a relatively small police force,” Saunders noted.

The new department will continue it’s value-based approach, he said, promising to run a tight ship.

The basic structure of the new department will remain the same, he explained, with better supervision.

“We will do the right thing when nobody’s looking,” he said.

While there will be some minor structural changes, including the addition of a professional standards division and administrative unit, policing programs Lakewood residents have become familiar with – such as Weed & Seed, Business Crime Free Task Force and park and marine patrol, among others – will remain.

“We intend to keep all the current programs we have,” Saunders said.

Bock noted that since 1997, overall crime in Lakewood was reported down 27 percent, while violent crime during that same period was reported down 47 percent.

“I think we can be proud of what we’ve done,” Saunders said, “but Lakewood is still a tough town.”

Much work remains to be done as the Jan. 1, 2005 operational date approaches.

Recruiting for the new department is under way, and the response has been overwhelming. There have been 225 applications for entry level officers, 261 applications for lateral moves by police officers, 79 applications for detectives and 104 applications for sergeant.

Officials are continuing to explore options for possibly contracting out the following services: dispatch, records, property room, forensics, special teams and canine and fleet maintenance.

As for a headquarters, officials are looking into a two-year lease of the current precinct, as well as remaining space in Lakewood City Hall. Long term, a decision will have to be made on the best option for providing 23,000 square feet of office space with secure parking facilities.

Lakewood citizens voted in March 1995 to incorporate as a city. Lakewood officially became a city on February 28th, 1996, making it the eighth largest city in the state.

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