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Pierson assumes new role

Although Bremerton police officers are easy to spot with their black suits and black guns on their hips, numerous volunteers provide less visible backup throughout the city.

When officer Karen Pierson takes the position of community resource officer at the Bremerton Police Department on Jan. 15, she will oversee a near army of unpaid help.

She will help coordinate the 119 city block watch groups that hold meetings, send newsletters and monitor their neighborhoods.

She will help train block watch captains on disaster preparedness, including nuclear war.

Additionally, she will jumpstart a new citizens academy, a six-week long training course that teaches volunteers about the department.

“Volunteers not only create a partnership between the police department and the community, they also free up officers to fight crime,” said Pierson’s training lieutenant, Tim Lopez.

“Right now we are pretty far behind on getting our reports entered into the records system,” he said.

The BPD might send out requests at senior hubs in the area, looking for men and women that can volunteer close to 20 hours each week.

Pierson has already assisted in the volunteer Explorers program at BPD, which trains youth ages 14-21 the ins and outs of policing. Currently the program is 17 members strong, and explorers have logged 2,000 volunteer hours this year.

“She’s very outgoing and community oriented,” said her training lieutenant, Tim Lopez. “She’s got a lot of patience.”

Pierson was an electrician at the Puget Sound Naval Shipyard before her hire at the Tacoma Police Department as a patrol officer. She was hired by the BPD six years ago, also in the patrol division. She has been a bike officer for the last year and a half.

“I’m excited and I look forward to working with the community. I am always willing to work with people about their crime prevention,” Pierson said.

Pierson will be assuming an important role, as a decrease in the number of officers has necessitated an increased need for volunteers.

Since Chief Rob Forbes took the helm of the police department six years ago, he has lost two commissioned officers and one reserve officer due to an ever-shrinking city budget. In the process, the remaining employees have shouldered increased duties.

So far this year, 14 unpaid reserve officers have volunteered 4,000 hours of their time.

The police department’s 2003 budget was 6.4 million. The 2004 budget approved by the city council last week includes extra money for house monitoring and jail costs, but the remaining budget shrunk $50,000 from the year previous.

Forbes said he will not lose any personnel this year, and he does not plan on cutting any services.

“We are always going to lobby for more police officers,” he said.

Pierson’s role is similar to the crime prevention officer’s position, held by Wendy Davis until this year.

The title has been changed, according to Lopez, to refocus the responsibilities for more outreach.

In August, Davis was the first woman since Bremerton was incorporated in 1901 to attain a supervisory position, when she became a sergeant.

She was assigned in 1998 to be the crime prevention detective at the police department.

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