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Coupeville turns over policing duties to Island County sheriff
Coupeville Marshal Lance Davenport will hand over his tin star, metaphorical as it may be, to Sgt. Rick Norrie on March 1.
The Town Council unanimously voted Tuesday to enter into an interlocal agreement with the Island County Sheriff’s Office to run the struggling marshal’s office.
The proposed contract still has to be approved by county commissioners — scheduled for Feb. 24 — but Undersheriff Kelly Mauck with the Island County Sheriff’s Office said the department is moving ahead quickly with plans because of the tight timeline.
Davenport will be out of a job just two years after taking over the small-town law enforcement agency. He said Friday that he’ll be sorry to leave a community he’s grown to love and he’s sad to see the end of the traditional marshal’s office, but he understands the decision.
“If you really look at the economies of scale and challenges we’ve had over the last eighteen months, it makes good sense,” he said. “I think if I was on the Town Council I would make the same decision.”
Davenport lives in Duvall — which is a two-hour commute — and said he has “several irons in the fire” in searching for other employment.
Sheriff Mark Brown emphasized that Coupeville Mayor Nancy Conard approached him about the idea of contracting with his department to run the marshal’s office and he dived in because he wanted to assist the town.
Conard said she explored three options for law enforcement and ended up recommended contracting for services with the sheriff’s office.
“I think this is going to take care of some of the challenges we’ve faced over the last few years,” she said, “and we’ll get great service.”
Trouble started for the marshal’s office in
the fall of 2012 as a series of deputy marshals gave their notice that they were taking higher-paying, more exciting jobs elsewhere.
With only one deputy left, Davenport said he stopped scheduling 24-hour patrols and filled the schedule with a patchwork of officers from other departments. He had the staffing stabilized with a couple of reserve deputies until they both recently gave notice, which is why Coupeville officials want the transition to move ahead quickly.
Under the proposed contract, Brown explained, the sheriff’s office will provide the town with two dedicated employees. He plans to name Sgt. Rick Norrie as the town marshal and he will have a deputy dedicated to the department.
Norrie and the deputy will wear Coupeville Marshal’s Office uniforms and drive Coupeville patrol cars. Town officials will continue to direct law enforcement priorities and Norrie will work closely with Conard, though the sheriff will be his ultimate boss.
For the hours when the Coupeville staff isn’t on duty, deputies from the north precinct of the sheriff’s office will answer Coupeville calls and do some patrolling — as they have over the last 18 months.
Under the proposal, the town will pay approximately $440,000 to the sheriff’s office in 2015, the first full year of a three-year contract. Mauck said the town currently spends about $450,000 a year on law enforcement.
According to Mauck, the sheriff’s office won’t make or lose any money on the contract. But the department has an interest in stabilizing law enforcement services in Coupeville; he said the marshal’s office struggles have affected the sheriff’s office.
“I think it’s a better use of resources for the citizens and the taxpayers,” he said.
Brown said he will hire two additional deputies, on top of the four new deputies approved by commissioners in this year’s budget. He said it benefits his department to have more employees, especially in the event of an emergency.
Under state law, the sheriff’s office has to offer a job to current deputies in the marshal’s office when the transition goes forward, as long as they pass background and polygraph testing. Brown said Coupeville Deputy Hodges Gowdey already sent him a letter of interest.
As for town residents, law enforcement officials don’t think they will feel any difference in law and order in their community.
“I don’t think there’s going to be any change that the citizens of Coupeville will notice,” Davenport said.