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Bellingham, Wash., Police Seek Software, Equipment Grant

Bellingham police are seeking a U.S. Justice Department grant to buy bicycles and equipment for a crowd-control unit and software that will allow residents to see crime alerts.

An aerial view of Bellingham, Wash.
(TNS) — Bellingham Police are seeking a U.S. Justice Department grant to buy bicycles and equipment for a crowd-control unit and software to allow residents to see crime alerts.

But it doesn't mean that the department is reviving its downtown bicycle patrols, Lt. Claudia Murphy told The Bellingham Herald.

"This is a bicycle response team to augment our crowd management team, or civil disturbance team. It will allow the department to have trained personnel on bikes to assist in managing large crowds. This is a team of people trained for specific uses in crowd management in events such as Ski to Sea," an annual relay race that runs through part of the city, Murphy said in an email.

Murphy declined to provide additional information about the unit ahead of a public hearing planned when the City Council meets at 7 p.m. Monday.

"Chief (Rebecca) Mertzig has a presentation to give where she will explain further what this will entail on Monday," Murphy said. "(We) will be waiting until after the presentation to council to answer any questions about the grant application information."

Because of a post-pandemic staffing shortage, Bellingham Police last year mothballed its special units — such as traffic cops, bike patrols and a drug task force — and have been staffing only its patrol and investigations divisions, the cops needed to handle 911 calls and catch criminals.

More officers are being hired, but the department isn't ready to activate its specialty units, Murphy said.

On Monday, the City Council will hold a public hearing and consider Mertzig's request for $32,432 in federal funds to buy bikes, helmets and shoes for the crowd-management team.

In addition, the department wants to buy software called PowerEngage.

"This software keeps citizens informed with automated updates, measures citizen satisfaction with text surveys, and provides actual data with real-time satisfaction scores," according to a memo attached to the grant application on the City Council agenda.

According to the PowerEngage website, the software can "balance the national narrative, keep citizens informed, boost officer morale" and is used by more than 5,000 agencies.

Leftover funds from the grant would go to the Whatcom County Sheriff's Office, which needs warm and waterproof coats for its special weapons and tactics team, according to the agenda memo.

©2023 The Bellingham Herald, Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.