Spokane county and city officials are pushing ahead with their groundbreaking joint effort targeting the growing problem of family abuse and domestic violence.
But city and county prosecutors say they still need to share office space to get maximum results.
Until now, city attorneys have not had to prosecute domestic violence cases - usually second-or third-degree assaults against wives, girlfriends or children.
A state law now makes the city responsible for prosecuting the estimated 1,500 cases per year that the county would otherwise manage.
In response, City Attorney Jim Sloane and Spokane County Prosecutor Jim Sweetser recently formed the joint Domestic Violence Prevention Team.
The goal is a coordinated team that can devote its full energies to battling domestic violence, recognized by many as a serious problem in Spokane.
The team effort has already started: The county has assigned four prosecutors to the task force; the city has committed two attorneys.
Community response has been positive, but finding office space for the 14 to 16 people on the team hasn’t been easy, said John Love, the deputy county prosecutor coordinating the new unit.
In addition to the six prosecutors, Love sees a team made up of about eight counselors, victim advocates, detectives and support staff.
“It’s important at some point that we get all our people together for best results,” said Love, who served in a similar unit in King County before coming to Spokane.
Without a shared office, prosecutors from the city are separated from their county counterparts and from the rest of the team.
“That separation creates logistical issues,” said Sweetser. If one workplace can be found for the entire group, victims will be helped faster and prosecutors can do their job more efficiently, he said.
Victims now need to visit two or three offices to answer questions or help prosecutors deal with their cases.
The initial goal was to place the team inside a building near the courthouse recently acquired by the county.
But two weeks ago, county commissioners told Sweetser and Sloane they can’t have that office space.
Plan B, said Love, is outfitting about six offices inside another nearby building, the privately owned Monroe Court.
That wouldn’t provide enough space for all members of the domestic violence team, but Love says it would be a start.
County Commissioner Phil Harris said money for leasing Monroe Court offices won’t come from the general fund.
“If the prosecutors can find the money in their next budget for that idea, then it’s theirs,” Harris said.