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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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COPS, traffic unit in squeeze

Christopher Rodkey Staff writer

Neighborhood COPS shops and the city’s traffic enforcement unit might be on the chopping block if the budget outlook remains dim, Spokane’s police chief said Monday.

Speaking in Riverfront Park to promote the National Night Out, Chief Roger Bragdon said that while he places great value in the Community Oriented Policing Services, he doesn’t consider the program an essential priority for the city.

Bragdon and other city officials have been prioritizing various programs in the wake of a projected $6 million budget shortfall. State law requires some services to be funded, and that places additional programs like the traffic unit and COPS shops low on the list.

“It’s very preliminary,” Bragdon said, “But I think it’s safe to say that all programs are in jeopardy that aren’t the police officer in the car responding to an emergency.”

The department spends $300,000 annually for the COPS program, which in turn gives the department the equivalent of $2 million in service from volunteers, Bragdon said.

“You get hundreds of extra ears and eyes in the community,” Bragdon said.

Bragdon spoke the day before the Night Out Against Crime event, taking place tonight. Neighborhood COPS shops will host dozens of block parties around the city.

A weekend traffic unit was formed last year and was expected to bring in 70 percent of its own revenue with tickets. Police have said that the unit is meeting its goals, but it might not be enough when this budget goes through.

Mayor Jim West, as well as Bragdon and officials with the city fire department, have considered a public safety levy to make up for the budget shortfalls.

The levy would require 60 percent voter approval.

Police and fire departments have been reeling from the effects of budget cuts.

Last year, 48 firefighters and 27 police officers were cut, and last month Bragdon said some calls to 911 went unanswered because the city didn’t have an officer to send to the crimes.

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