By Natalie Johnson / firstname.lastname@example.org
The city of Winlock will hire a new police chief by April and plans to completely re-form its police department — disbanded in 2015 — by the end of June, according to a Feb. 27 letter announcing Winlock’s intention to end its contract with the city of Toledo for police services.
Winlock Mayor Don Bradshaw said the four-month timeline to recreate a police department lapsed for nearly three years doesn’t worry him. He said a new chief could be in place as early as the city council’s next meeting, scheduled for 6:30 p.m. Monday.
Read the full letter here:
“I have interviewed people and I’ll ask the council to make a decision probably this Monday night,” he told The Chronicle
The city of Toledo is working on a response to Winlock’s letter, Toledo Clerk Michelle Whitten told The Chronicle Wednesday.
Bradshaw said he couldn’t speculate on how Toledo will respond.
“I haven’t heard back from Toledo and I don’t know what they’re going to do,” he said. “It is not my desire to make enemies out of neighbors or to pick a fight.”
Winlock’s letter, dated Feb. 27, and written by city attorney Samuel Satterfield, of Chehalis firm Hillier, Scheibmeir & Kelly, P.S., serves as Winlock’s formal written notice of the city’s intent to withdraw from the contract.
Satterfield writes that the city of Winlock will claim a “material breach” of contract by Toledo for two primary reasons: First, that Toledo took possession of a police vehicle owned by Winlock, wrecked the engine and did not repair the vehicle, and second, that Toledo has not met monthly reporting requirements to Winlock as required in the contract.
The interlocal agreement does not have an early exit clause, but allows early termination for a breach of contract.
“Given these issues (the) City of Winlock would request that the City of Winlock and the City of Toledo allow the Interlocal Agreement to terminate early, and agree upon a reasonable transition plan…” the letter states.
Bradshaw previously notified Toledo of his intention to end the contract in a letter dated Jan. 2, sent just after he was sworn in as mayor.
Soon after sending the first letter, Bradshaw told The Chronicle he believed Winlock wasn’t getting quality police service from Toledo and argued that an increase in reports of crimes in Winlock since the contract meant crime had increased under Toledo’s watch.
“At least 75 percent of the people I talked to when I was campaigning wanted their police department back,” he said Wednesday. “I guess what I’m after is to do what they asked me to and to return our autonomy to us.”
Satterfield restates Bradshaw’s concern in the most recent letter.
“Since the City of Toledo has taken over police duties for the City of Winlock, crime rates seem to have risen, and care and coverage of the City of Winlock have not met the standard that the city of Toledo receives,” the letter reads.
Satterfield offers no factual support for his statement in the letter.
According to records from the city of Toledo, the Toledo Police Department responded 841 times in Winlock in 2017 for various reasons — more than twice as many times as it responded in Toledo, at 405 calls.
In January, Toledo Police Chief John Brockmueller said the contract was beneficial to both cities and resulted in more hours spent on patrol in both cities. He said Winlock has twice as many calls because the city is twice as big as Toledo and said officers do not evenly split time between the two cities.
“We go where we’re needed, regardless of how much time it takes,” he said in January.
Satterfield also argues in the letter that Toledo breached the policing contract by not reporting to the Winlock City Council how much time officers spend in each city.
Winlock’s proposed timeline has the city beginning to withdraw from the agreement gradually, with the Winlock Police Department scheduled to be up and running by June.
Winlock proposes that it will pay the full contract amount for March, 3/4 of the amount for April and 1/2 the contracted amount for May and June.
Winlock pays Toledo $217,000 per year for police services in the contract that went into effect in 2015. According to information previously reported in The Chronicle, Winlock’s 2015 police budget was projected to be $250,417.
“In June, all final transitions will be complete, and all police services will be switched back to the Winlock Police Department,” the letter reads.
Bradshaw said he is prepared to meet the proposed deadlines.
“I can do that. I anticipated all of this and I started this so I would be ready for it,” he said.
Winlock will continue using Lewis County for evidence storage. Bradshaw anticipates two police vehicles will be returned to Winlock from Toledo.
“I have funds to purchase a car if we need it,” he said. “I’m only going to have one officer until June. (Toledo) will still be providing us services until then if they agree with what I’ve asked.”
Bradshaw says he plans to interview Toledo officers and offer one of them a job in Winlock if they want it.
“They’ll have first right of refusal,” he said.