While not in the 2014 budget, the Spokane Valley City Council are poised to vote next Tuesday to appropriate $423,213 to hire more police officers and restructure the department to more effectively respond during the greatest hours of need.
The issue, which was studied at a February council retreat, came to light after a study was conducted to assess the current staffing levels of the Spokane Valley Police Department, a division of the Spokane County Sheriff’s Office.
The city has contracted with the county since incorporation in 2003, and this is the first major uptick in service in that time, say city officials.
During a study session on Tuesday, City Manager Mike Jackson said the city’s population has grown from 82,000 in 2003 to 91,500 in 2013. Businesses have also increased to 7,517 in 2013 from 6,015 in 2007 without an upswing in police officers.
While the city hasn’t increased its police presence, it hasn’t had to take officers off the street during the recession.
“We’ve had exactly the same police force,” Jackson said, but added that the need for more officers is apparent.
To meet that requirement, however, Police Chief Rick VanLeuven said efforts will be made to use existing resources.
“Based on a collaborative effort, we are confident that we have come up with a plan,” VanLeuven said. “I think it’s a very good plan and am honored to share it with you.”
Two additional officers are to be hired along with the reassignment of six patrol corporals in order to create a “power patrol” that would overlap during the day and night shifts from 3 p.m. to 1 a.m. when the highest number of calls come in.
Also, there would be less visible changes. Existing corporals (and that rank) would be reassigned with three upgraded to sergeants, two becoming property crimes detectives and another named a patrol deputy.
This year’s one time-costs would include improvements, such as new cubicles, to the Sprague Avenue Precinct. Recurring costs would be $347,000 going forward from 2015.
Hiring could begin as early as May, however it will take another year to get the officers trained at the academy and on patrol.
Council Member Ed Pace said he is supportive of the move, but would like to see more update reports from city staff on the status of the contract with the sheriff’s office.
“We ought to have an annual review and discussion,” he said.
Council Member Bill Bates said, however, that he didn’t want to see the city constantly trying to renegotiate a contract that is “clearly working.”