City Council considers new police cars; passes homelessness ordinance

Brian Sommer

By Jack Mayne

With aging and dilapidated police cars, the Normandy Park City Council is trying to decide whether to buy four new cars or only two, even one, right away.

Acting Police Chief Brian Sommer (pictured above) told the Council at their Tuesday night meeting (April 26) the city has not bought a new police vehicle since 2011 and it once replaced vehicles every five years.

Previous Chief Chris Gaddis and the city staff had reached an agreement on borrowing $160,000 from the state at 1.6 percent interest for five years to purchase four new vehicles “to replace our aging fleet,” Sommer said.

Kathleen Waters‘Long, hard look’
Councilmember Kathleen Waters said much has changed since her finance committee got the proposal last January form Gaddis. She said given “the upcoming major change in law enforcement administration, I’d suggest we take a long, hard look at this proposal even though it has been brought before the public and several presentations from the previous chief.”

The city is “in dire (financial) straits and the new chief might have a different view,” so she recommended waiting for a new police chief to make a purchase decision.

Waters said there was no question that some vehicles needed to be replaced and maintenance costs and the purchase finance rate was favorable, but said she worried abut the affect on city voters of buying four new police cars all at once.

She also noted that the Council is soon to begin preparations on a new biennial budget that must be approved by the end of the year.

Two vehicles should be purchased now, Waters said, and that would “certainly reduce expenses” and give the department a serviceable fleet.

Sommer said one car, a Charger, needs $1,000 in engine work and that it was basically not worth the expense. The Tahoe, that he drives, “is on its way out, too, and needs about $10,000 in major repairs,” he said.

“My concern is that we won’t have enough vehicles to do our job,” Sommer said. “Yesterday, with the three vehicles we had in service … all were in use.

“It’s my position that four makes sense to me,” the acting chief said.

Two now, two later?
Councilmember Michelle Sipes-Marvin suggested the city buy two vehicles now and two more next January, depending on “what happens to the levy.”

“The recommendation is to go with four,” said City Manager Mark Hoppen. “It’s cheaper in the long run to buy four cars … and establish a more reasonable replacement schedule.”

Councilmember Tom Munslow said having a police car break down is a major problem and buying four at one time makes sense, but there is political concerned with getting the levy lid lift passed and having four new cars.

“I think it is wise to take a chance on the political part and go ahead and get all four cars now.”

Susan West‘Completely Separate’
Councilmember Susan West said there needs to be communications to the public that police cars and the people the levy lid lift approval would finance “are two completely separate things.”

Mayor Jonathan Chicquette said he wanted to “make sure we all understand” the equipment purchase budget, different from the personnel budget, already has money for four cars. If fewer are purchased, “that money is unused for police vehicles.”

Hoppen said buying four would be doing things in an orderly way, not having to react to “oh, oh, this car broke.”

Waters said she worried about the optics of four cars and its reaction on the voters that rejected the levy lid last year.

Hoppen said the staff will come up with financial specifics for Council consideration and decision, perhaps on May 10.

Homeless law passed
The Council also approved a homeless encampment ordinance virtually identical to ordinances passed by most other cities in the state. It applies only to encampments on property owned by religious organizations.

No such requests have been made to local religious groups or to the city.

The city under 2010 state law (RCW 35.21.915) is required to establish such regulations “which authorize religious organizations to host temporary encampments for homeless persons on property owned or controlled by a religious organization.”

That law says the city cannot prohibit homeless camps or impose any greater conditions than those “necessary to protect public health and safety.”

The ordinance includes rules that must be followed if a faith-based organization wants to sponsor a temporary homeless encampment on property they either own or control such as under a valid lease.


20 Responses to “City Council considers new police cars; passes homelessness ordinance”
  1. Tom Lane says:

    My suggestion would be for all Seattle area cities to stop building smart growth condo towers for the rich, and instead, build smart growth condo towers for the homeless, as they do in Mesa, Arizona and Salt Lake City.

    That is the compassionate thing to do. Give the homeless a roof over their head, a bed, a kitchen, and a nice seasonal pool and dog park behind the tower.

    So much money goes into light rail and smart growth for the rich, the so called techies and hipsters. These folks are making six figure salaries and don’t need any government subsidies for their housing and transportation.

    • NP Resident says:

      What could possibly invite more homeless than more free stuff. Horrible plan.

      As for the new cars, it’s obvious something has to be done but with no chief and a need to make a large purchase like this I continue to believe Normandy Park should consider ALL options such as other, cheaper methods of policing. No, this doesn’t mean hiring private security to conduct the policing as you have suggested in other post.

      • Susan West says:

        NP Resident: Can you share the cheaper methods of policing? Thanks, Susan

        • NP Resident says:

          I’ve already stated my position Susan. I believe this is the perfect time for our City and Des Moines to work together as they do with many other city services and combine their police. It’s only logical there is some economies of scale if this happens. We wouldn’t need our own police chief or any other commanding officers, I believe that could all be handled through Des Moines Police. We would simply need to have enough officers to provide the police service we need. I don’t believe for a second that we have a need for a police department of 13 officers.

          • Susan West says:

            NP Resident: Feel free to call me so we can discuss this issue. Or better yet, please speak with City Manager Mark Hoppin. We can provide you with service level information and police costs. NPPD has a chief and no other commanding officers. The NPPD officers and chief receive lower pay than DMPD. I’d be happy to put the costs side by side for you. If the levy passes, NPPD would have 10 officers including the chief, not 13.

  2. Tom Lane says:

    Well, the free housing works in Mesa and Salt Lake City, so I say give it a try in greater Seattle. It’s the Christian thing to do.

    As for private security, it works very well in Carlsbad, Thousand Oaks, and Camarillo here in Southern California. If it works down here, I say give it a try in Normandy Park.

    The volunteer police forces, are staffed by volunteers, and are an adjunct to the police officers employed by the city.

    All I can tell you is that in my field of urban planning, one should be open minded to new ideas from other cities, and you never know what might turn out to solve a particular problem.

    • NP Resident says:

      Tom you point to these contracted security services and seem to be saying they use them to replace the police and that is simply untrue. Each of these cities you named either have their own police department or contract police services with another agency. The security is simply a supplemental service that someone is paying for.

      • Tom Lane says:

        The volunteer citizen forces in Camarillo and elsewhere supplement the police. They do not replace the police. Please read the links and discover how they operate. The volunteers do NOT field 911 calls. I would never suggest that and neither would any of the City police forces ever do that in Camarillo, Carlsbad, and elsewhere. Only the dispatch center takes 911 calls. However, if a citizen on patrol sees something suspicious, then they call 911. I know that there are Anti-Tax folks on this board who are not open to new ideas and favor cancelling the NPPD and merging this with DMPD or the King County Sheriff. I am absolutely NOT one of them. Private, volunteer security merely gives the officers more eyes.

  3. Ha Ha! says:

    Maybe our new security guards can ride Tom’s wishful thinking to the next 911 call!

  4. Brittany Dr says:

    According to who, are these cars in bad shape?

    Other PD’s drive crown victorias, including Burien, and the Normandy Park police roll around in a very sharp looking Tahoe and Charger. And these arent good enough for our quiet streets? The fastest road in Normandy Park isnt even a 50mph road.

    Maybe this is why we are having financial struggles. Just because we are in Normandy Park doesnt merit lavish flaunting of money.

    • Susan West says:

      Brittany Dr: Here’s a link to information about Normandy Park’s police cars including mileage, age, repair costs, purchase prices, and information about replacing part of the fleet:

      • Brittany Dr says:

        Good powerpoint, and i appreciate the research and effort. But compare these vehicles to the average officers vehicle, I fail to see how we have to have the best of everything.

        If we put our energies in to saving, getting more commercial tax revenue, i am sure we will benefit. Perhaps the City itself could start a fundraiser campaign to raise funds for the city- boat rentals at the cove?? I dont have the answers..but we need money urgently.

  5. Brittany Dr says:

    Also, someone explain to me- why does Normandy Park have more police officers than Burien? We are not even half as large as Burien, and are in a much quieter, more civilized (so to speak) neighborhood. I was told by a Burien officer that there are rarely more than 4 officers on active duty at once in all of Burien.

    We would do fine with 6 officers max, not 10. 2 on duty per shift. Work out a deal with Des Moines if backup is needed. This would amount to thousands of dollars per year saved.

    • Susan West says:

      Brittany Drive: Burien has about 50 officers. Normandy Park currently has 7. Burien and Des Moines police officers are paid more than NP officers. It takes 10 officers to have 2 scheduled officers per shift. If we contract with Des Moines, we will have to pay their rates. I’d be happy to show you a comparison chart.

      • NP Resident says:


        I know you offered to speak with me in person but obviously I’m not the only person with questions about contracting our police services. Maybe it would be beneficial for you or someone else from the City to post the cost comparison here. I just looked at the union agreement passed by the city council with the officers and then I looked at what Des Moines is paying. I have to say, it isn’t that different and if it can be done with less officers and a chief I think there would be great savings in talking with Des Moines. I must say, I’m very opposed to combining any services with King County Sheriff as they are simply too large and it will be their way or the highway. Please, I believe it is your duty and the duty of the City to get an accurate and current estimate of combining services with Des Moines. This may save us having to pay higher taxes with the upcoming levy vote. As a side note, I do not support the levy and will be voting NO.

        • Tom Lane says:

          Then vote no if you wish but crime will increase and your property could be next. You never know. Please call Susan West and Karen Steele.

  6. Susan West says:

    NP Resident: The Council has not approved a police union contract. The vote is on Tuesday.

  7. Flavor Flav says:

    If you don’t think the Normandy Park Police make a big difference go and visit and punch in your address.

    Now zoom out and see all of the crime happening around you in Burien, Des Moines & SeaTac.

    It’s well known to the low life’s that the NP Police get their man. So they usually stay clear of here.

    If we lose our Police we will be south Burien.

  8. NP Resident says:

    I have a great idea for the Normandy park police to create revenue come sit and enforce the speed limit of 25mph on 3rd ave sw and Normandy road just west of the QFC.

    Only a suggestion!

  9. Laughing says:

    I laugh and laugh. NP Resident – you might want to look at the crime in Burien. Shoot outs. Drug house busts. Personally, I live in NP because I did my time in a high crime area and didn’t like it. There’s a reason to have 10 (or more) police officers in NP. Its not because they look spiffy in working automobiles.

    As for the ticket writing, I’m all for it. At the $45 per ticket that NP receives, how many tickets (with convictions) an hour does an officer need to write to generate revenue for the City? Let us know what your research shows.

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