June 23, 2011 in Washington Voices

COPS shop at LC unique in citywide network of 12

By The Spokesman-Review
COPS series

The Voice will profile all the COPS shops this summer.

Birth of COPS

In 1991 two young girls were abducted in West Central. One was later found dead, the other was never found. Residents in the West Central neighborhood were shocked and got together in search of better crime prevention measures - and that’s how the Community Oriented Policing Service was born. Created, staffed and maintained by volunteers, COPS West became a model for subsequent COPS shops across town.

In 2002, a COPS shop opened at Lewis and Clark High School, and there are now 12 COPS shops in Spokane.

COPS volunteers take reports and gather information about neighborhood crime, possible drug houses and dealing, crime prevention, Block Watch and neighborhood watch programs, andthe shops serve as office space for patrol officers and in some cases also for parole officers from the Department of Corrections.

In 2010, more than 250 volunteers put in more than 43,000 volunteer hours, took more than 20,000 incident reports and were involved in more than 180 volunteer projects and programs.

Source: www.spokanecops.org

It’s perhaps not exactly what students expect at high school, but the COPS shop at Lewis and Clark High School has been there since 2002. Students volunteer there during the school year, and last week this year’s volunteers got together for a potluck lunch to celebrate the end of the school year and thank their teacher and adviser, Michael Yates.

Yates is retiring, so the future of the LC COPS shop is uncertain.

“We just don’t really know what’s going to happen,” said senior Scott Reed, 18. “Another teacher would have to be willing to take it over.”

Along with most of the COPS shop volunteers, he’s graduating and moving on to new things, but Reed said the experience with the COPS shop has changed his career choice.

“Before COPS shop I was pretty oblivious about law enforcement,” said Reed. “Now I’m actually thinking of enlisting in the Navy or in a criminal justice program somewhere.”

The students who gathered around the COPS shop potluck were very different. One is in SWAT Team-style cargo pants and military boots; another is in Dockers and a blue shirt. There’s about an equal number of boys and girls, a few tattoos and piercings, flip-flops, tennis shoes and girly summer dresses. The students look like a cross-section of LC as they hover around cupcakes and baked chicken, salads, chips and sushi.

Officer Dan Johnson – or Officer Dan as the students at Lewis and Clark call their resource officer – is there, too. “It’s a very diverse group of kids,” said Johnson. “It’s been a great group of kids this year.”

Yates jokingly said he didn’t have to fire anyone and the kids all laugh.

They each have about 90 volunteer hours to put on their resume now.

The LC COPS shop is not typical of Spokane Community Oriented Policing Service’s substations, but it works sort of the same way.

Staffed by volunteers, the LC COPS shop helps students make theft reports and it is on ongoing graffiti and theft patrol. Students make “rounds” checking for graffiti in bathrooms and on walls. When they find graffiti they radio Officer Dan, who alerts the custodial staff.

“It’s not all gang graffiti, but some of it is, and we just want to get rid of it as soon as it’s put up,” said Reed. Sometimes fights breakout between students. Recently Reed walked in on two girls fighting in the fieldhouse.

“I just get Officer Dan,” said Reed.

It’s rare that residents of the LC neighborhood walk in to the COPS shop, but it does happen and the shop gets phone calls from the neighborhood.

“I can usually help people on the phone,” said Yates, “or at least tell them where to go.”

The student staff keeps the office running during open hours, and they have to figure out how to work together. When all the other COPS shops went to a City Council meeting earlier this year to protest budget cuts, LC senior Scott Wortley, 18, went as the LC COPS shop representative.

“I was so nervous. I thought I was going to throw up on the podium,” said Wortley. “I couldn’t believe that it was COPS shop that got me to where I was standing before the entire City Council to say something. And all the other COPS shops were sitting there behind me.”

The LC COPS shop is more about learning than anything else. It’s the only COPS shop located at a high school, perhaps the only one in the entire country located at a high school. And Yates had only good things to say to his hard-working volunteers.

“You minimized some of the violence that could have happened at your school and you preserved the beauty of the school, just like you protected each other. You grew a lot and you taught me some lessons too. Don’t stop volunteering, keep giving to your community,” he said.

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