January 11, 2012 in City

Police step up march presence

Officers increase security after last year’s bombing attempt
By The Spokesman-Review
Dan Pelle photoBuy this photo

Spokane Police Sgt. Jason Hartman, left, rerouted the 2011 Martin Luther King Jr. Unity March in downtown Spokane after a bomb inside a backpack was found hidden behind the garbage can and bench. This year, an increased police presence will be along the normal route. Spokane Police Lt. Joe Walker, right, will be operations commander for the march on Monday.
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Background and the latest updates

Spokane police have a message for anyone considering participating in the Martin Luther King Jr. Unity March on Monday: “The bad guys aren’t going to win, and they need to come down and show them that,” said Lt. Joe Walker.

Walker, who will oversee police presence at the march, explained the police preparations for the march during a meeting with media Tuesday. Police declined to say how many officers will be on hand, but said people can expect to see one on nearly every corner.

The department expects to bring in from 12 to 15 extra officers on overtime.

The increased security and preparations come after white supremacist Kevin W. Harpham left a backpack bomb along the planned route of last year’s march. Harpham, 37, was sentenced last month to 32 years in prison.

Harpham participated in the march and had a remote control for the bomb, but Spokane police rerouted the march to avoid the device, and he never got close enough to detonate it.

Detectives have not learned of any credible threats this year, Walker said.

Police are using the same route this year that’s been used for 20 years: Marchers will start at the INB Performing Arts Center on Spokane Falls Boulevard, head south on Bernard Street and then west on Main Avenue to River Park Square. Alternate routes have been planned just in case.

“We’ve looked at as many bad outcomes as possible, just trying to prepare for everything,” Walker said. “Unfortunately, with the way the world is these days, you have to do that.

“We’re going to make sure this march happens one way or the other.”

Walker encouraged people not to leave items unattended and to notify police if they see something suspicious. “That’s why we’re here – we need to know these things,” he said.

“Somebody should be able to find a police officer if they see something that looks out of place.”

Three public facilities district workers discovered the backpack bomb at the northwest corner of Main Avenue and Washington Street just before the march last year.

Spokane police Sgts. Eric Olsen and Jason Hartman decided to reroute the march at the last minute, a move the FBI says prevented Harpham from getting within the necessary 1,000 feet for his remote to trigger the bomb. The crowd was never informed of the change.

Hartman will supervise officers who will be patrolling this year’s march, said Officer Jennifer DeRuwe, spokeswoman for the Spokane Police Department.

Members of the bomb squad will be at the march, and a command post will be set up for emergency responders to monitor operations.

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