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Staff shortages prompt BFPD to cut active patrol hours

 
January 4, 2022

After extensive planning and in coordination with the Bonners Ferry City Council and city attorney, Boundary County Commissioners and the sheriff’s office, the Bonners Ferry Police Department, faced with staffing shortages, recently implemented a schedule that reduces active patrol from 24-hours-per day to 20. After all the planning that went into it, a statement posted to the sheriff’s Facebook page this morning left many in the department baffled.

“The Sheriff’s Office was recently made aware by the City Police department that they will be reducing their level of service and no longer providing their long-standing 24-hour coverage within the City limits,” Sheriff Dave Kramer wrote. “As we would to any other County residents and businesses the Sheriff’s Office will respond to in progress calls during the hours not covered by the City Police Department. The Sheriff’s Office will not enforce any City ordinances, or have a Deputy stationed within the City limits during those hours. The Sheriff’s Office will do random patrols within the City the same as other parts of the County. With Deputies being responsible for law enforcement calls within all of the more than 1,270 square miles of Boundary County, there may be a delay in some calls within the City limits if the Deputy is in one of the more remote sections of our county or tied up on another call. Non-active calls within the City limits may be held until the City has an Officer on duty.”

“We’ve been faced with personnel shortages for awhile, and this was a decision reached after long term discussion, consideration and planning,” Assistant Bonners Ferry Police Chief Marty Ryan said. “The truth is, we don’t have people beating down the door to be small town police officers. As has long been the case, many of those we hire and train move on to bigger, higher-paying agencies. We looked at multiple options and decided this was the most viable option to both serve the citizens of Bonners Ferry and be able to retain the excellent officers who choose to serve on our force. We are blessed to have such outstanding officers consciously choose to stay here despite more lucrative opportunities just down the street. Four of our officers were born and raised here, and we want to do all we can within our means to keep them here.”

The last vacancy in the department was posted for three weeks, with no applicants. That vacancy resulted when the officer accepted a position with the sheriff’s office.

The Bonners Ferry Police Department has not always provided active 24-hour patrols. When Brian Zimmerman became chief in April 2018, city officers only patrolled 16 hours per day.

Under the new protocol, city officers will actively patrol 20 hours a day, with the four unstaffed hours to “float,” or vary day by day so no routine is established. A city officer will be on call during the unstaffed period, ready to respond in case of emergency.

“Staffing this way is common practice in small towns across the nation and it’s by no means new here,” Ryan said. “City residents pay taxes for county services, including law enforcement, and it takes very little additional resources for a sheriff’s department to provide those few hours of first-response coverage. The bottom line is, this is the best way available for us to provide service to the residents of our community and retain the dedicated officers we’re so proud of.”

This afternoon, the department posted the following to the Bonners Ferry Police Department Facebook page:

“Due to staffing shortages, the Bonners Ferry City Police Department will be staffing an on-duty officer for twenty hours per day instead of the previous twenty-four hour coverage. This reduction in coverage will occur for the foreseeable future until adequate staffing can be achieved. The four hour staffing gap will vary and will not be any set time frame from day to day. There will always be a city officer “on call” to respond to emergencies.

“Residents of the City of Bonners Ferry can expect that when they call for law enforcement services through Boundary County dispatch or 911, they will be connected to a law enforcement officer whether a city officer is on duty at the time or not. As residents of Boundary County, City of Bonners Ferry residents support the Sheriff’s Department through their tax dollars and can expect the same level of service as any other county resident during those four hours or any other time from the Sheriff’s Office.

“The one exception to coverage by Boundary County Sheriff’s deputies within the City is for city ordinance violations such as animal complaints, building code issues, parking violations, etcetera. These can be reported to dispatch at any time and the information will be taken from the reporting party, but will not be addressed until a city officer is on duty to respond.

“The Bonners Ferry City Police Department appreciates the public’s understanding as we move forward in a time of challenging work environments for law enforcement and nationwide staffing shortages across all sectors of employment. BFPD is committed to providing quality law enforcement to the citizens of Bonners Ferry and all who visit our city.”

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9B.News
Mike Weland, Publisher
mike@9b.news  

6931 Main St.
P.O. Box 1625
Bonners Ferry, ID 83805
(208) 295-1016

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