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Study examining moving downtown Spokane police precinct delayed by City Council

UPDATED: Tue., July 30, 2019

Spokane police take a man into custody on trespassing and disorderly conduct charges in downtown Spokane in this June 2017 photo. Officers are ramping up their patrols near businesses shuttered by the response to the coronavirus. (Dan Pelle / The Spokesman-Review)
Spokane police take a man into custody on trespassing and disorderly conduct charges in downtown Spokane in this June 2017 photo. Officers are ramping up their patrols near businesses shuttered by the response to the coronavirus. (Dan Pelle / The Spokesman-Review)

The push for a new downtown Spokane police precinct is on pause.

A resolution to explore the feasibility of a new precinct and increase downtown police presence, which has emerged as an issue in the mayoral election, was deferred 90 days by the City Council on Monday.

Council members Breean Beggs and Lori Kinnear, whose district encompasses the South Hill and downtown, introduced the downtown policing resolution earlier this month.

“We didn’t get enough information,” Kinnear said, referencing discussion on the proposal during a City Council study session last week. “It wasn’t sufficient, and there is more out there that we need to look at.”

The nonbinding resolution would ask the city’s administration to conduct a feasibility study of locating a new precinct in the heart of downtown and present the findings to the council. It also requested that the city emphasize a “community policing model” downtown, particularly by deploying officers on bicycle and foot patrols.

But first, Kinnear said, she wants to get input from downtown business owners and community members.

“We need a process to involve the community that lives and works downtown,” Kinnear said.

Beggs added they want to hear from the Downtown Spokane Partnership about potential locations for a new precinct.

The police department formerly operated its downtown precinct out of a storefront in the Peyton Building near the Spokane Transit Authority headquarters, but moved in 2015 to the Spokane Intermodal Center, which offered the stability of city ownership.

The resolution was drafted as the city prepares to add five more officers to the downtown precinct next year following the completion of their training. Funding for the new officers is thanks to the public safety levy passed by voters earlier this year.

There are currently 10 officers stationed downtown covering three shifts. Though officers are on foot or patrolling by bicycle whenever they are able to, Police Chief Craig Meidl has said that the department’s first priority will always be to respond to calls for service.

Property and violent crime reported downtown has trended downward thus far in 2019.

Police officials offered the City Council their opinions during a study session last week, laying out a number of factors that would have to be considered before moving the precinct to a new location.

Location is only one factor in determining what space is most appropriate. Costs associated with a new precinct could entail renovation of the space and relocation of information technology infrastructure.

On the other hand, capacity could be an issue at the intermodal center after additional officers are assigned to the precinct.

The City Council does not actually have the authority to determine where the Police Department operates its precincts, but can bring visibility to the issue and place pressure on the administration.

Council President Ben Stuckart has expressed skepticism about the resolution, stating that the location of the downtown precinct is not the council’s to make.

The draft of the resolution initially introduced by Kinnear and Beggs was far stronger in tone, demanding that the police department “must move its downtown precinct office back to the heart of downtown Spokane.”

One of Stuckart’s opponents in the mayoral election, Nadine Woodward, has made a call to relocate the downtown police precinct a centerpiece of her platform.

“A visible police presence downtown, with officers on foot patrol, boots on the ground, is an effective diversion to crime,” Woodward told The Spokesman-Review earlier this month. “We need to make downtown safer. We need people to feel safe going downtown again.”

This story has been modified to correct the location of the former downtown precinct operated by the Spokane Police Department. It was in the Peyton Building adjacent to the Spokane Transit Authority plaza.

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