Spokane police are talking about moving out of the City-County Public Safety Building as the department makes a transition to a neighborhood crime-fighting model.
The move would be consistent with police Chief Frank Straub’s goal of making police more accessible to the public, said Monique Cotton, department spokeswoman.
“Part of our strategic plan is to move police resources closer to neighborhoods,” she said.
The departure reverses more than 40 years of cooperation between city and county law enforcement. Voters in 1967 agreed to a property tax increase for the facility to the north of the historic Spokane County Courthouse. Officials at the time said it was part of a transition to full city-county consolidation, something that later met voter resistance.
Completion of the building in 1970 saw the department move from its headquarters in the 200 block of West Riverside Avenue to join the Sheriff’s Office, jail, prosecutor’s office and other criminal justice services.
Cotton said no decisions have been made on when or where the police department would move.
The county’s chief executive officer, Marshall Farnell, has asked city administrator Theresa Sanders for more specifics on the city’s plan to move out.
“Some time ago you indicated to Commissioner (Shelly) O’Quinn and myself that the city of Spokane intended to vacate the Public Safety Building at the end of the calendar year,” Farnell wrote in an email.
Farnell asked for a 12-month advance notice of the police department’s exit “so that the county can plan its future space needs …”
Sanders responded Wednesday morning: “Marshall – our folks are working on a five-year plan for facilities that will outline the city’s intentions. We will get that to you soonest,” her email reply said.
Details are still up in the air, including any potential sites for a future police headquarters, said Brian Coddington, city spokesman. “I don’t know if there are any decisions on it,” he said.
Because voters countywide paid for the building, the city has only had to make annual payments for utilities and maintenance on the space it occupies. The county pays for its share as well.
City police occupy 53,000 square feet and are charged $6 a square foot for a total of $318,000 annually, Farnell said.
Over the years, the building has increasingly been surrounded by other buildings on the county’s campus, making the building more difficult to locate and parking more distant. The building is fairly cramped for workspace.
City Council President Ben Stuckart said he has his eye on cost. “It’s really important that it pencils out financially” and also meets the goal of getting police services into neighborhoods, he said.
Cotton said moving out would dovetail with the creation of three new neighborhood precincts, each with a captain as commander, detectives and neighborhood conditions officers.
Straub is seeking to implement a “geographic policing model.”
Sheriff Ozzie Knezovich has told county commissioners that he is concerned about maintaining access to police records, which are managed by the city.
He said prosecutors, public defenders and courts use paper documents and need quick access to them.
Farnell said the county could reorganize its facilities to fill the space being vacated by police, but he wants time to plan those changes.