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Sheriff launching feedback system

The Kitsap County Sheriff’s Office will soon launch a Web-based feedback system by which residents will be able to communicate directly with the department safely and efficiently through a simple on-line form.

“This is designed to improve the delivery of police services,” said Sheriff Steve Boyer. “Anyone with access to a computer can leave a question or a comment 24 hours a day, whether it is a complaint or a compliment.”

The new form will be an addition to the Sheriff’s Office’s current Web page, which already includes a custody list, a directory of Level 3 sex offenders and a list of frequently asked questions.

After logging on to the page, users will be asked to supply a name, address, phone number and e-mail address.

The form does not support anonymous complaints, and the results will be public record. Boyer said the department pays attention to anonymous communication, “but it’s too often an example of someone who is nursing a grudge against someone else.”

Prior to writing a message, there will be an option to select one of several categories — speeders, traffic, abandoned vehicles, animal complaints, drug, juvenile, graffiti, prostitution, gangs, loud parties, noise, public drinking, vandalism and “other.”

Boyer stresses that the new system does not take the place of 911. Those who have an emergency should not hesitate to use standard channels. And although the menu items include some potentially immediate situations — like loud parties — anyone who wants the police to quiet down a party in progress should also use 911.

This is not to say the notes spend an interminable time in a digital black hole. Immediately after submission, the note is routed directly to the department in charge.

The system also provides an easily followed paper trail and a way to quantify public input.

“I don’t know how many complaints we had last year,” Boyer said. “We have no way to track them. This new system will allow us to see exactly what people are saying. We’ll put it all in a database, where we can easily refer to the information.

Deputy Tom Burrows, who is retiring this month, took about three weeks to develop the system at Boyer’s suggestion.

“I’ve wanted to do this for several years,” Boyer said. “This is the first opportunity we’ve had.”

Boyer said the system doesn’t emulate any other existing services, and he did not call up other offices with such systems in place. Instead, he instructed Burrows to develop something that fit the county’s needs.

Boyer also didn’t research Kitsap computer-literacy rates, instead depending on anecdotal evidence of local computer use. Again, he stresses that residents without access to a computer can still communicate by phone, through the mail or in person.

In any case, Boyer said the form is only the latest in a long progression of technological improvements during his 33-year law enforcement career. When he started, he relied on a six-shooter for protection and filled out forms by hand.

Today, the sheriff has complicated weapons systems (sometimes just to keep up with the bad guys), e-mail between patrol cars and CenCom and fingerprint results available in hours instead of weeks.

Still, a lot of the available improvements fall under the category of toys rather than tools.

While money is tight, Boyer said the county commissioners have supplied him most of the equipment he really needs.

”We don’t need every toy,” he said. “We want things that will add value. Some of these tools result in less liability, which saves the county money.”

While Boyer can’t supply an accurate count of complaints or compliments, he doesn’t expect the new system to change that ratio.

“Any feedback is good,” Boyer said, “whether it is a complaint or a compliment. People have concerns that they want to tell the police. This offers an outlet for them to communicate. We’re not looking for more complaints; we just want to hear the concerns of the community.”

Boyer said the feedback link will be accessible at www.kitsapsheriff.com by the end of June.

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