Citizens’ Police Academy 9: Harbormaster, marine patrol, K-9, graduation

This is the ninth and final entry in a column about reporter Ethan Fowler’s participation in the Bainbridge Island Police Department’s Citizens’ Police Academy.

Keeping the waters surrounding Bainbridge Island safe is something Bainbridge Harbormaster Tami Allen and Bainbridge police officer/marine patrol officer Ben Silas continually focus on.

Allen, who will reach her 15th anniversary as the island’s harbormaster in July, said the Bainbridge Harbor Management Plan was started in 1999. It covers safety and navigation, water quality, anchorage and mooring, public access, maritime commerce and derelict vessel prevention.

Allen said she keeps tabs on 53 miles of water, which include four deep water bays. She said there’s more than 550 buoys around the island and that all of them require permits. She noted it took five years to log all of the buoys.

She said she’s always looking for volunteers for the Summer Dock Host program, where people greet boaters as they step off their boats and answer questions for them. Allen said one day last summer featured visitors who spoke 14 different languages.

She said she gets a lot of help with her job from volunteer harbor stewards, residents who live along the shoreline and call her when they see anything worthy of her attention.

Silas, who started working the same day 15 years ago as his future wife Carla for the BIPD, pilots the department’s 35-foot, state-of-the-art police boat. He said the boat was funded through a $640,000 Homeland Security grant in 2008 and has the ability to load a SWAT team on a Washington State Ferry.

When he first joined the force, Silas said he had no interest in boats but he has since grown to “really love it.” He said his jurisdiction extends halfway between Bainbridge and the nearest piece of land, however he has law enforcement powers for the whole state since Silas said there’s fewer resources for the water.

He said he goes riding around the island at least once a month and more frequently during the busy boating season.

For the final week of the two-month Citizens’ Police Academy, the group of about a dozen people gathered for a potluck dinner at the Queen City Yacht Club. The celebratory evening was highlighted by Officer Dale Johnson demonstrating the skills of his retired K-9 partner Rusty, who delighted a lot of the children of the academy participants.

Rusty was able to successfully find hidden money that had drug scents on them. During his career, the chocolate lab mix was used in 214 searches with 547 finds of controlled substances and or drug paraphernalia. He also assisted in 181 arrests.

Bainbridge Police Chief Matthew Hamner said he hopes to have another K-9 officer in the near future.

I truly enjoyed participating in the Citizens’ Police Academy and learned a new appreciation for police officers and greater understanding of the challenges they face. I was particularly impressed by how much Bainbridge officers treated academy participants like they were family. I will also miss the amazing treats that Officer Carla Silas, who organized the academy and scheduled the speakers, created weekly for us.

I highly recommend everyone in the community to try to find time to participate in a future Citizens’ Police Academy, which are generally offered yearly in the spring.


About Ethan Fowler

Ethan Fowler has more than 20 years of journalism experience with 19 years of daily and weekly newspaper experience covering news, features and sports, as well as being an editor for 14 of those years. He has won several writing awards over the years in Washington state, Virginia, Texas and Georgia, including award-winning investigative journalism. Fowler was paid by the Review & Herald Publishing Association in 2009 to co-author a book, "Brushed Back: The Story of Trevor Bullock," with his wife. The book details the real life of a top minor league pitcher in the Philadelphia Phillies organization and his Christian faith. "Brushed Back" has sold more than 2,000 copies since its release.