Nearly four years ago, the Spokane City Council bought into a proposal to shift control of the city’s community policing efforts to a nonprofit group.
Police officials helped sell the plan by assuring council members Spokane COPS would grow less and less reliant on taxpayers as private support for the nonprofit group increased.
But that hasn’t happened.
Spokane COPS Director Cheryl Steele plans today to ask the council for $132,925 - more than twice the amount of the original contract approved by the council in March 1995.
“When we got into this program, it was proposed to us it would eventually stand on its own two feet,” Mayor Jack Geraghty said.
“This was initiated as a program that was to be self-supporting,” said Councilman Jeff Colliton, who wasn’t on the council when the nonprofit group formed. “This is like any bureaucratic organization that takes on a life of its own and just keeps moving.”
Steele blamed the increased contract amount on success.
“The program keeps growing,” Steele said. “That’s what happens when you empower citizens. They come up with all kinds of creative solutions they want to implement at a neighborhood level.”
In 1995, Steele and Police Chief Mangan told the council they hoped Spokane COPS would attract enough money from state and federal grants, as well as private organizations and businesses, to make the nonprofit more self-sufficient. Unfortunately, they say now, that didn’t happen.
“There was a hope that corporations in the community would step forward and partner in the COPS program,” Mangan said. “They don’t want to pay for overall administration, but they will pay for specific programs in specific cop shops.”
“We have tried, over the last three years, many different vehicles for marketing to get administrative costs paid for,” Steele said. “Everybody wants the program, but they don’t want to pay for it.”
Besides, Mangan added, Spokane is a leader in community policing, so it was hard to predict four years ago how successful Spokane COPS would be at standing alone.
“There aren’t any other people who are going to tell us how it’s going to work out,” Mangan said.
In March 1995, the council approved a nine-month contract with the newly formed Spokane COPS organization for $60,000. Several months later, the nonprofit asked for - and got - an extra $15,000 to hire a second staff person.
At that time, the city had six police substations and two neighborhood observation patrol units.
In 1996, the council approved a $90,000 contract with Spokane COPS. During that year, the nonprofit grew to nine cop shops and 10 neighborhood units.
In 1997, the nonprofit received $118,106 from the city. The program added a substation, and five neighborhoods started mobile cop shops or neighborhood units.
Besides more police substations, Steele said, the nonprofit has rapidly expanded to include programs such as Safe Streets Now, which helps residents rid their neighborhoods of drug houses and nuisance homes by taking their complaints to civil court.
In 1998, the city will get $12,000 from the state to help pay for the Police Activities League, a mentoring program that links police officers to children. Spokane COPS oversees the program, so that money will be included in the nonprofit’s $132,925 contract with the city.
The organization has trained 2,300 volunteers and supported 154 projects in neighborhoods across the city, Steele said.
Steele said she’s been “put on notice” by council members that next year they expect Spokane COPS to reduce its budget request.
“I hope we’re more effective in showing businesses and individual people the amount of work we do, and asking them to partner with us,” she said. “Believe me, we want out from the city’s coffers.”
The contract with Spokane COPS is on the council’s consent agenda, which is voted on during the 3:30 p.m. briefing in the lower-level conference room of City Hall, 808 W. Spokane Falls Blvd.
The regular meeting begins at 6 p.m.
, DataTimes MEMO: This sidebar appeared with the story: COUNCIL AGENDA During its regular meeting, the City Council will discuss proposed amendments to the Citizens Review Commission, which oversees the city’s Police Department. The $444,430 Human Services budget for 1998 also will be considered.