Community has chance to chat with police at Edmonds Chamber event

Edmonds Police Chief Al Compaan visits with a Police Chatter attendee.

Detective Stacie Trykar talks about registered sex offenders.

EPD participants included, from left, Sgt. Shane Hawley, Police Chief Al Compaan, Sgt. Alan Hardwick, Detective Stacie Trykar and Traffic Officer Kraig Strum.

Traffic Officer Kraig Strum describes the rules for driving in school zones.

Community members and business owners joined Edmonds Police Chief Al Compaan and several members of his department Wednesday morning for 90 minutes of coffee and conversation during the inaugural Police Chatter event at Canarino Gelato.

After a few minutes of casual mingling and introductions, police representatives stood at the front of the room and fielded a barrage of questions on a wide range of topics, from what the department is doing to increase the number of women officers to what are the rules for driving in a school zone.

What follows is a sampling of the questions and answers from the event, which was sponsored by the Edmonds Chamber of Commerce. (And if you missed it, don’t despair. Organizers plan to hold another Police Chatter event in the near future.)

What is the department doing to ensure that the environment is accepting of women employees and that more women police officers are hired?

Detective Stacie Trykar responded first, noting that she has been with Edmonds PD for more than 10 years and during that time has felt supported by her co-workers and has not experienced any type of discrimination. “I hope to retire here,” said Trykar, who focuses on sex crimes and crimes against children.

Compaan said that women have historically been under-represented in police departments nationwide, but added that Edmonds PD is continuing to focus on recruiting more female officers. Four out of the past 10 police officers hired in Edmonds have been women, department spokesman Sgt. Shane Hawley said.

The department is also working to get more people of color into EPD, so the personnel makeup becomes more representative of the population it serves, the police chief added.

Will the city’s popular Block Watch program, disbanded several years ago due to budget cuts, ever be reinstated?

Compaan said it was difficult for him to see the Block Watch program eliminated, because it also meant the loss of valued community volunteers who assisted with the program. He said the program requires an employee to oversee those volunteers, and added it is his hope that the program will eventually be restored.

Is the police department fully staffed to cover a city the size of Edmonds?

“We could use a few more officers,” Compaan said, noting that police call volumes — now at 30,000 per year — continue to increase. A crime prevention officer (to oversee the Block Watch program mentioned above) and a crime analyst to assist detectives and patrol officers with data mining are also on the chief’s wish list.

What is the department doing to help the city prepare for and respond to disasters, such as a major earthquake?

The city partners with Snohomish County’s Department of Emergency Management, which oversees disaster response, and participated in last year’s Cascadia Rising earthquake exercise, which was aimed at helping officials prepare for such an incident, the police chief said. Snohomish County Fire District 1 trains citizens on how they can help their individual neighborhoods prepare for disasters, and Compaan also gave a shout-out to the My Edmonds News/Fire District 1 “ReadyTogether” video series supporting that effort. An attendee suggested that the city also publicize a list of the emergency shelters that are set up in the city, and the police chief acknowledged that was a good idea.

If you have a concealed carry permit and are pulled over by a police officer for a routine traffic stop, should you tell the officer you are carrying a weapon?

Citizens aren’t required to let officers know that they are legally carrying a weapon but it is a courtesy to the officer to do so.  You can see more on this topic in our Ask the Edmonds Cop video segment here.

Why are there registered sex offenders located near schools?

Detective Trykar explained that there are three levels of sex offenders who have served their time and have been released into the community, with Level 1 being the least likely to re-offend and Level 3 the most likely. Her job is to check in regularly with the approximately 30 Level 1 sex offenders who live in Edmonds, with Snohomish County in charge of overseeing the higher level offenders. See the county’s OffenderWatch website for a community map that shows where offenders are living.

Once they have served their sentence, registered sex offenders can live anywhere — including near a school — as long as there are no restrictions placed on them through the sentencing court or the Department of Corrections. (See more here.)

What is happening with the 9-1-1 call centers serving Snohomish County?

Compaan explained that there is a project underway that would consolidate the two 9-1-1 call centers — SNOCOM and SNOPAC — “to provide for a more robust response,” by reducing the call answering time for police, fire and medical aid calls. The new system would also be more efficient with how those calls are routed, and would also save the city money, he said. “If all this comes to fruition, that could actually go live late next year or early 2019,” he said. You can read more on that issue here.

In light of the recent fatal stabbings in Portland, Ore. of two men  who came to the defense of women who appeared to be Muslim and were being harassed, how are police responding to local concerns about that situation?

“There’s a fine line between free speech and what we commonly refer to as hate speech,” said Edmonds Police Sgt. Alan Hardwick, who added that over the years police have worked very hard to establish strong relationships with a variety of diverse cultural and religious groups. “The bottom line is, we want to be there for people who are being victimized,” he said. The recent issue involving swastikas painted on cars and homes in local neighborhoods in still being investigated, Detective Trykar added.

How does the department respond to domestic violence situations?

EPD has a domestic violence advocate who works directly with city prosecutors, Hawley said. Because domestic violence victims are often reluctant to testify, the cases are difficult to prosecute, he explained. The department’s domestic violence coordinator “has a lot of direct contact with the victims,” Hawley said, and also helps victims connect with the resources they need. State law now requires a mandatory arrest of whomever police determine to be the perpetrator in a domestic violence situation, he added. (See more here.)

What are the rules regarding speed limits and flashing lights in school zones?

“Technically whenever the light is flashing, you need to be going 20,” said EPD traffic officer Kraig Strum. Even if the light isn’t flashing, but children are present within that school zone, the 20 MPH limit applies, he added. (See more here.)

Are home security cameras helpful in assisting police in capturing burglary suspects?

Yes, Hawley said, explaining that with current security systems an Edmonds homeowner can be working in Seattle but can be alerted when an intruder is in their home, and can then call 9-1-1. “We’ve had a couple of those recently,” he said. “The home security systems are great and very helpful in solving crimes,” he said. (See more here.)

— Story and photos by Teresa Wippel