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Bonners Ferry Police reducing patrols

Staff Writer | January 6, 2022 1:00 AM

BONNERS FERRY — Staffing shortages are causing the Bonners Ferry Police Department to temporarily reduce police coverage.

The shortage means that the department will be staffing an on-duty officer for 20 hours per day instead of the previous 24-hour coverage.

Bonners Ferry City Administrator Lisa Ailport said the shortage stems from an officer taking a job with the Boundary County Sheriff’s Office.

In a public service announcement, BFPD officials wrote the reduction in coverage is expected to continue for the foreseeable future until adequate staffing can be achieved. The four-hour coverage gap will vary and will not take place at any set timeframe. There will always be a city officer “on call” to respond to emergencies, officials said in a public service announcement.

When city residents call for law enforcement services through Boundary County Dispatch or 911, they will be connected to an officer, whether one is on duty at the time or not, BFPD officials said.

City residents 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, officials said.

BFPD officials said they appreciate the public’s understanding, noting it is a challenging time for law enforcement and comes amid nationwide staffing shortages in all job sectors. Despite the staffing shortage, they said the police department is committed to providing quality law enforcement to both city residents and visitors.

Boundary County Sheriff's Office announced BFPD’s revised coverage plans in a social media post on Jan. 4.

“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,” said Boundary County Sheriff Dave Kramer in the Facebook post.

However, that response comes with a caveat.

The sheriff’s office will not enforce any city ordinance, or have a deputy stationed within the city limits during those hours, Kramer said. County law enforcement will do random patrols within the city as it does throughout the county.

With deputies covering law enforcement calls within the county’s 1,270 square miles, Kramer said a response could be delayed if a deputy is in a more remote area of the county or tied up on another call.

Non-active calls within the city limits may be held until a city officer is on duty.

The news prompted one resident to speak at the Jan. 4 city council meeting. He questioned why residents heard about the change in coverage on the 5 p.m. news in Spokane instead of from city officials.

“Facebook is a total breakdown of the chain of command and the chain of authority of who we should be getting our news from,” the man said.

He called for a thorough review of the city’s benefits package, saying the sheriff’s office has “poached” four BFPD officers, said the resident.

Ailport said the staffing issue has nothing to do with an imagined lack of support and appreciation the city has for the police department. She noted there has been no talk of cutting funding at council meetings and said the city fully supports its officers.

Ailport said city officials hope the staffing issue is temporary and has nothing to do with support the city gives to the police department. BFPD implemented the change in coverage in order to not burn out existing staff.

Although they hope the situation is temporary, the current housing market is something the city will have to address. Ailport said it is hard to move to Boundary County given the current market.

“It is about managing what we have left before overworking officers,” she said.

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