The Spokane Valley City Council has approved a new contract for police services with the Spokane County Sheriff’s Office.
The agreement covers a five-year term and any renewal must be authorized by the Spokane Valley City Council.
The Spokane County Sheriff’s Office has provided law enforcement services in Spokane Valley since the city incorporated in 2003, and the city’s 2017 budget for those services is just above $20 million.
At one point last year, the City Council debated establishing its own police agency, but decided instead to review the existing contract.
City staff worked with the Spokane County Sheriff’s Office to come up with a contract that establishes a series of goals for the Spokane Valley Police Department.
Among those goals are the creation of a Spokane Valley Police Officer uniform that would be unique to Spokane Valley.
Spokane Valley deputies wear standard Sheriff’s uniforms, but residents and some council members have expressed a strong desire for Spokane Valley law enforcement to have its own uniforms and also vehicles painted in a different color than those of the Sheriff’s office.
“One of the issues we hear over and over again from our citizens is the desire for a city identity,” Councilman Ed Pace said Tuesday evening. “There is an outcry for identity. It matters.”
Another goal is to have marked vehicles be a light blue metallic color, different from the Sheriff’s Office’s white and green vehicles, but no vehicles will be repainted.
The contract also asks the Sheriff’s Office to, “when feasible,” dedicate a number of officers especially to Spokane Valley.
On its own, that’s not a big change. Spokane Valley Police Chief Mark Werner said the agency already tries to keep officers in Spokane Valley so they can get to know the people and the community.
The control of the Spokane Valley Police Department will remain the same: The Spokane Valley City Manager hires a new police chief from a list of candidates supplied by the sheriff. The city manager also terminates the police chief, and the sheriff may terminate the police chief after consulting with the city manager.
Al Merkel, who’s running for City Council challenging Mayor Rod Higgins, criticized the contract for taking away the independence of the contractor.
“It takes away some authority from the sheriff,” Merkel said. “I think that’s dangerous.”
The proposed contract received six yes votes from the City Council; Councilwoman Pamela Haley was excused absent.
Before it takes effect, the Board of Spokane County Commissioners must approve the agreement, after which it will be signed by the Spokane Valley city manager and the sheriff. It takes effect when it’s been signed by all parties.
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