Walla Walla Police don't have the manpower to combat violent crime

WALLA WALLA, Wash. -- KEPR has told you about the rising crime in an otherwise peaceful Walla Walla. There was even a brutal stabbing over the weekend. Police say they need more manpower to combat the crime. Filling the empty desks at the brand new police department could make a difference.

Sgt. Mike Ralston patrols Walla Walla with four other officers at a time.

He explains, "Two domestic violence incidents at the same time and our entire shift is tied up."

His daily tasks have changed drastically over the years. There's not enough time for general patrolling anymore.

"Making a traffic stop or just making a citizen contact which we used to have more time to go out and do that," Ralston continues.

There's constantly a crime to investigate. And Walla Walla now has four fewer officers on duty to investigate those crimes.

Walla Walla officer Tim Bennett says, "A reduction of four officers is basically eliminating 10% of our work force."

Walla had 49 officers at its peak in 2009. A federal grant paid for two extra bodies on the payroll. Those officers managed to make 22,000 proactive contacts that year. Contacts like these can range from traffic stops to on the street meetings. Two years later, the proactive contacts had dropped off along with the number of officers.

Ralston says, "We don't have time to go out and work traffic, and work the gangs and DUI emphasis."

And Walla Walla is already starting to see the consequences of all this.
Violent crime is increasing at an alarming rate.. From a little more than 100 violent crimes in 2009 to 140 last year. Fewer officers makes the additional crimes all the more troublesome.

"We're always in reactive mode, which doesn't prevent crime, just solves crime," says Bennett.

The police department hopes to get more money to hire more officers.
But no one's optimistic.

Bennett continues, "We're still in some pretty hard economic times and with reduced tax revenue, there's not a whole lot the city can do."

Which has officers focusing on just having the boots on the ground to focus on public safety.

41 officers is close to what walla walla police were working with back in 1998. Since then, not only have calls gone up, but population and land coverage has increased significantly.