December 10, 2009 in Washington Voices

Police-sheriff partnership working for Medical Lake

By The Spokesman-Review
 
Dan Pelle photo

Doug Ross, left, city administrator for Medical Lake, has contracted with the Spokane County Sheriff’s Office to have deputies like Jeff Conway, right, patrolling the streets.
(Full-size photo)(All photos)

The city of Medical Lake has been contracting police services through the Spokane County Sheriff’s Office since Nov. 1. There are three new deputies residing in police headquarters, with a fourth on the way.

“I think it’s been going great,” said Doug Ross, the city administrator.

He said the transition has been smooth, although a few kinks had to be worked out here and there – the city has maintained its own court and getting the tickets the deputies write into its own system was a challenge – but the department seems to be coordinating well with City Hall.

Ross said the deputies have met members of the community by stopping by meetings in Medical Lake, and they have been out patrolling throughout their shifts.

The new department deputies drive Medical Lake Police cars, wear jumpsuits with a Medical Lake patch on them and carry a department cell phone for residents to call when they need to speak directly to a deputy. Ross said that if the deputies are out on a call, they probably won’t answer right away, but will get back to anyone calling (509) 342-1735.

But that isn’t the only way to reach the department. If it is an emergency, residents should call 911. If a resident needs to report a non-emergency crime, the deputies have access to Crime Check at (509) 456-2233. If they have general questions, residents can call City Hall at (509) 565-5000. Ross said that residents are also welcome to stop by the police station, but often the deputies are out on patrol and the doors are locked.

Contracting through the Sheriff’s Office is cheaper for the city than having its own department, Ross said, but that isn’t why the city made this decision. The city conducted a long and fruitless search for a new police chief throughout the Northwest starting at the beginning of 2008. At one point, Mayor John Higgins had a candidate in mind, but the candidate wanted more money than the city could afford.

Another benefit of the contract is that the city does have a police chief in Sheriff Ozzie Knezovich. If someone has a complaint, the Sheriff’s Office deals with it. If someone needs a public records request, the county deals with that, meaning less work for the small city staff.

“From my seat, I’m pleased,” Ross said. “I’m very happy with the service.”

The new department is made up of daytime Deputies Jeff Conway and Brian Lawler. Deputy Mark Benner works the night shift and a fourth deputy is expected soon.

There will also be a floater to cover sick time, vacation days and when the deputies need to leave for training.

Conway said he has been with the Sheriff’s Office for about six years and has worked all over Spokane County. He said he has worked on the west side of the county before and is familiar with the area. He is enjoying getting to meet the community members and is working on emphasizing community-orientated policing.

“It’s a good thing for the town, and it’s a good thing for the Sheriff’s Office,” Conway said of the contract.


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