Police department launches new downtown Renton patrol project

The Renton Police Department initiated a “trial” period for a downtown patrol starting March 20 with two dedicated officers per day, Monday through Saturday, for eight-hour shifts.

The department’s plans for a downtown-specific patrol district started in 2022.

For years, the department has utilized its Direct Enforcement Team to patrol downtown, with officers walking and biking along the main streets and downtown corridor in the spring and summer.

“Adding police to downtown is not new. However, being able to staff a specific downtown dedicated police district is,” said Sandra Havlik, public information officer for the department.

According to the City of Renton’s 2023-2024 budget overview, the department plans to have four commissioned full-time employees serving the downtown patrol district, resulting in an estimated budget increase of $619,564 in 2023 and $706,052 in 2024.

Police Chief Jon Schuldt announced the department’s first day of downtown patrol at March 20’s public safety committee meeting.

Renton City Councilmember Carmen Rivera asked Schuldt what factors the city and department will assess in the trial period in terms of what’s working and what’s not.

Schuldt said the department will assess the locations, times and numbers of contacts the patrol makes per day and the means and resources available downtown.

“This is the perfect opportunity for us to figure out what works and what doesn’t work before we make these positions permanent,” Schuldt said at the meeting.

The department will also make adjustments based on community input, Havlik said.

Havlik said downtown Renton served as a “natural place for [the department] to put as many resources as we can.”

The department will need to fill staffing levels prior to implementing a full downtown district squad — though once full, as expected in 2023, the department will make the downtown core district permanent.

As of the trial period, officers will sign up for emphasis duties focusing on specific areas including addressing criminal activity and connecting residents in need with social services.