The King County Sheriff’s Office is eliminating its motorcycle unit and redeploying the seven deputies in the unit to work in squad cars throughout unincorporated King County.
The cuts are the result of a sharp revenue drop suffered to the county’s Road Fund, which allocated the money used for the unit to the sheriff’s office, King County Sheriff Steve Strachan said at a news conference on Thursday.
The Selective Traffic Emphasis Patrol, which is staffed by six deputies and one sergeant, was paid for with $1.5 million from the county’s Road Fund, he said.
Its aim was to focus on traffic infractions and road safety, but the county’s Road Fund has taken a sharp hit in recent years and the county has elected not to renew its contract with the sheriff’s office for the motorcycle squad, according to Frank Abe, a spokesman for King County Executive Dow Constantine.
Abe said the county’s Road Fund has given money to the sheriff’s office for specialized traffic enforcement for decades, but can no longer do so at the same level. This year the amount going to the sheriff’s office from the road fund is $4 million, he said.
The decision to cut the $1.5 million for specialized traffic enforcement was made to preserve money for “essential maintenance and repair of county roads,” Abe said in a statement released on Thursday. He also said that the need for the unit has decreased as annexations and incorporations throughout the county have occurred.
Strachan said the department has a need for all of the displaced deputies, who will be reassigned to squad cars answering calls throughout the county.
The change, though perhaps not welcomed by the motorcycle officers, will not affect the department’s ability to answer calls for service, he said.