Spokane Police Department hires new officers from academy

SPOKANE, Wash. - Last month, the Spokane City Council passed a budget calling for the hiring of 25 additional police officers. It's the largest increase in police staffing since Expo 74 and is intended to make neighborhoods safer.

It takes five-and-a-half months for a recruit to make it through the basic Law Enforcement Academy. Earlier this year, the instructors stopped training up rookies like soldiers and put more emphasis on their role as peacekeepers.

"If you approach every situation as if you're going to get ready to go to war, you're likely to go to war. As it seemed to me, it would be more productive to de-escalate first whenever they can," said Criminal Justice Training Center Director Sue Rahr.

The academy still teaches the defensive tactics that give them the upper hand when taking people into custody, but Spokane's police chief is glad recruits are getting plenty of lessons in "verbal judo."

"You know, for too long I think we've emphasized a little too much 'might makes right,'" said Spokane Police Chief Frank Straub. "Now, we really have to be about care, and compassionate policing."

John Yen is one of Spokane's four new officers. Even though he's a nationally ranked martial artist, Yen thinks communication is still his best weapon.

"I think the guardian model is actually a good way of looking at how police are supposed to be officers. Again, it's not a fight every single time. We have to be able to tone it down or amp it up, if we need to," said Yen.

Now, Yen and his classmates will soon start backfilling the manpower gap created by years of budget cuts.

"Well, I think the first priority is to get the radio cars, the patrol cars. We've been running in a significant deficit just on patrol," said Straub. "Having these officers is going to be huge. It's going to allow us to do more proactive policing."