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The Spokesman-Review Newspaper
Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

Spokane Valley looks to add police platoon

Spokane Valley soon may have more police on the streets when they’re needed most.

A proposed reorganization of the patrol division that includes the hiring of two additional deputies and the creation of a fifth platoon to augment staffing during the busiest hours of the day was rolled out this week for Spokane Valley City Council members.

The plan would cost about an extra $300,000 a year for the two additional deputies, plus about $70,000 in one-time costs for new equipment and proposed improvements to the Valley’s police station. The City Council is expected to consider a formal proposal in the coming weeks.

“The fact that we can even be discussing this as a city is pretty remarkable,” said Deputy Mayor Arne Woodard. “You look at how many cities are still laying off staff.”

Spokane Valley, which contracts with the Spokane County Sheriff’s Office for police services, has maintained steady law enforcement staffing despite the economic downturn that has led to steep layoffs and hiring freezes in other communities.

The city pays the Sheriff’s Office about $17 million a year to provide law enforcement coverage under a contract that dedicates a little more than 100 deputies to Spokane Valley, with nearly half of them assigned to patrol duties. The others include administrators, supervisors, detectives and school resource officers. The city also provides a police station, equipment and vehicles.

Under the proposed reorganization, the rank of corporal would be eliminated and the positions redistributed. Three would be upgraded to sergeants, two would be turned into detectives and one position converted to patrol deputy in the new platoon.

The two new deputies plus one deputy from each of the existing four platoons would be transferred to the new “power shift” platoon. The deputies would work from 3 p.m. to 1 a.m., which is when Spokane Valley sees its greatest demand for police services.

The extra coverage would overlap between the existing dayshift and nightshift platoons, which average about seven on-duty deputies per shift, and serve to bolster the number of deputies on the road when they’re needed most.

“This is really not a new concept,” said Spokane Valley Police Chief Rick Van Leuven. “But it is a proven concept.”

With the Valley’s growing population and increasing calls for police service, Van Leuven said Lt. Matt Lyons crunched the numbers and looked for efficiencies.

City Manager Mike Jackson said he’d like to see the council consider the proposal this year, in part because it takes about a year to get a newly hired officer trained and on the road.