Spokane County commissioners this week said they are open to the possibility of combining city and county law enforcement agencies.
Commissioners Al French, Todd Mielke and Mark Richard sent a letter to Spokane Mayor-elect David Condon supporting consideration of law enforcement consolidation.
The letter, delivered Tuesday, comes after Sheriff Ozzie Knezovich last month offered to serve as interim city police chief at no cost to the city of Spokane upon departure next month of Chief Anne Kirkpatrick.
Knezovich also said the time is right for a broader discussion of a combined force.
Condon on Wednesday said he has asked his transition team to look at the possibility of law enforcement consolidation, including a review of communities operating under a combined city-county agency.
He said any consolidation should provide savings, improved services or other efficiencies.
“If anything, I’d be looking to enhance services through consolidation,” the mayor-elect said. A decision on whether to move in that direction is some time off, he added.
The commissioners’ letter said Kirkpatrick’s departure offers the opportunity to examine the structure of law enforcement in a broader way.
“With the retirement of Chief Kirkpatrick, it appears there may be a unique opportunity for this region to have a dialogue about where a regional law enforcement is in the best interests of the public,” the letter said.
It goes on to indicate that the commissioners stand “ready to dialogue with you, your administration and transition team” on the issue.
An opportunity for such a discussion was passed up prior to Kirkpatrick’s hiring in 2006, which came in the same year that the sheriff’s post was vacated by Mark Sterk, the letter noted.
The board also pointed out that recent debates over the role and power of a police ombudsman, the influence of the Spokane Police Guild and the desire for improved public confidence in law enforcement are issues that show the need for the broader discussion, according to the letter.
The letter was delivered to Nancy Isserlis, chair of Condon’s public safety transition subcommittee.
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