Langley Police Department may be facing the loss of an officer

The mayor’s news comes on the heels of city council’s conversations about police funding.

The mayor of Langley dropped a bombshell at the end of the city council meeting Monday night, announcing that the city is facing the de facto defunding of its police department because one of three officers is considering leaving.

Mayor Tim Callison pointed a finger at the council members, saying one of the reasons the officer cited for leaving is that he doesn’t feel supported by them.

“Langley will be experiencing what it’s like to live in a city where the police has been defunded because we will only have two officers,” Callison said.

The announcement came amidst ongoing discussions between community members and the council about racial inequality and law enforcement.

During the meeting Monday, Councilmember Peter Morton made the decision to withdraw a resolution meant to prevent the defunding or disbanding of the Langley Police Department. The resolution was tabled at the council’s previous meeting.

Morton said he made the decision to delete the resolution, concluding that it was poorly written and contained ambiguous language about what defunding the police meant. He apologized for submitting the resolution and said he was no longer advocating for it to pass.

Callison, however, said even if the resolution had passed, it was “too little, too late,” because the city is now facing the “impending loss” of one of the three Langley police officers.

“It’s a terrible tragedy to lose this fine young man who grew up here and certainly knows the community,” Callison said.

The mayor did not confirm who is pondering leaving the force, but he said the officer specified a lack of support from the city council was one of the reasons he may decide to leave Langley for another agency.

In an interview with The South Whidbey Record, Callison said about $75,000 had been invested in the police officer who is considering seeking employment elsewhere. The Langley Police Department had been in the process of adding a fourth member to its ranks when the state’s police academy closed because of COVID-19.

A candidate has been interviewed and accepted by Langley’s Civil Service Commission but still needs to spend the five months at the police academy and then another six months with a training officer.

Callison said the police department prefers new hires because seasoned officers coming in from other departments may have habits that are not suitable for use in Langley. The city has unique requirements for its police officers.

“They wear a lot of hats,” Callison said. “They are first responders, they are working with our county social outreach. We don’t have a detective department.”

He added that the Langley police force may need to modify its stance on not accepting transfers or consider working with reserve officers who may be available from the Island County Sheriff’s Office. Callison would not say the name of the officer who is thinking of leaving town, although anyone familiar with the department would clearly know who he was referring to.

Langley Police Chief Don Lauer did not respond for comment by press time.

At previous council meetings and police workshops, Lauer said the burden of long schedules is a reason a fourth officer is needed.

He also mentioned during earlier council meetings that the department already cut the police budget by about 30 percent because of COVID-19.

Langley has an interlocal agreement with the Island County Sheriff’s Office under which sheriff’s deputies on the South End respond to Langley and Langley officers respond to incidents in the unincorporated areas of South Whidbey.

In an interview with The Record, Morton said he stood by his decision to get rid of the resolution, but he was afraid that one of the Langley police officers might choose to seek employment elsewhere.

“In the meantime, I would submit that making sure we have the best possible social services for Langley residents is parallel to doing the same thing for all of Whidbey Island,” Morton said.

When asked if he might consider bringing back the resolution, he said it should be allowed to “rest in peace.”

“That doesn’t mean we aren’t going to pay attention to the subject of how we move forward, with both public safety and public health in mind,” Morton said.

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