Tumwater Police say pandemic and legislation reduced crime statistics in 2021

Ty Vinson / The Olympian

Since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020, ending many in-person interactions across the country, sheltering-in-place has had some benefits for local jurisdictions.

The Tumwater Police Department, in an effort to increase transparency, met with city officials on the Public Health and Safety Committee last week to discuss how the department has changed and what they have seen audiences since the start of the pandemic.

In 2021, crime and calls for service are down from previous years, putting fewer people in jail and creating less use of force by officers. But police chief Jon Weiks said police reform legislation had also been instrumental in reducing the number of calls and arrests, with police unsure whether or not they were allowed to prosecute. some business.

Weiks gave a presentation that highlighted staff mix, calls for service, use of force, training and more.

With a police budget of just over $8 million last year, Weiks said 50% went to the salaries of officers and other department employees. About 20% went to employee benefits, 11% to fleet services and information technology.

Only about 1% went to training and travel and 4% went to jail, which Weiks said is due to courts being closed during the pandemic and fewer people being prosecuted immediately after committing a crime.

Weiks said the police department received 17,455 calls for service in 2021, down from 17,238 in 2020, but down from 18,906 in 2019 before the pandemic.

In 2021, the department made a total of 500 arrests, compared to 600 in 2020 and 1,088 in 2019. Weiks attributed the trend to more frequent court closures.

“Arrests were made but we had nowhere to take them, so a lot of referrals were made to the courts,” he said.

There were 2,142 incidents in total at Tumwater last year, including thefts, burglaries, assaults, vehicle prowls and more. In 2020, there were 2,239 incidents and 2,751 in 2019.

Weiks said many crimes are detected by officers conducting field interviews and routine traffic checks. But since recent reform legislation has made it difficult to prosecute people without probable cause, Weiks said many crimes have gone undetected.

In 2021, officers conducted 913 field interviews, compared to 1,800 in 2019.

“It’s very rare that you see us in a chase,” Weiks said. “You can hear people on the police radio and people not even stopping at simple traffic stops. They know they don’t have to stop and we can’t chase them away. .”

But now the language of House Bill 2037 has been clarified and officers can now pursue vehicles under reasonable suspicion, Weiks said. Still, most lawsuits must be approved by a supervisor and can only involve a potentially serious violent offense, under Senate Bill 5919.

Weiks said the language surrounding House Bill 1735 has also been updated to be clearer on the definition of use of force and de-escalation tactics. He said the legislation restored officers’ ability to use force when deemed necessary.

In 2021, the Tumwater Police Department recorded 43 use of force cases. This number is down from previous years, with 57 in 2020, 73 in 2019 and 77 in 2018.

Council member Angela Jefferson said she’d like to see the department break down the cases even more to find patterns in substance abuse cases, mental health appeals, abuse and more. Weiks said the information will be presented at a meeting in June.

Weiks said officers and other department personnel completed 6,639 hours of training in 2021, and each individual also completed 59 hours of internal training. Some of the trainings included sessions on firearms, defensive tactics, impartial policing, emergency vehicle operations, CPR and more.

The department participated in about a dozen community events, and Weiks said they typically do more in a non-pandemic year. He said they were starting to do more in-person events again.

Finally, Weiks said the department is in the process of finding a new K9 unit after their current dog, James, was injured a few months ago and is now nearing the end of his lifespan. He said the process of finding a new dog and handler and getting them familiar with the service takes about a year.