New patrol car cameras, batons, tasers and training are coming to the Spokane Police Department. Last week, the city council approved the use of $1.1 million from the reserve fund, but one lone council member - the president - voted no.
City Council President Ben Stuckart thinks the department needs something more important - officers. He was the lone 'no' vote in the 6-1 vote to approve the release of the funds.
"I just don't think it's a wise idea to spend a million dollars over here on equipment when we are still short somewhere between 25 and 50 police officers in our community, " Stuckart said.
The money will be used to fulfill part of the Use of Force Commissions recommendations revealed in February: tasers, ironwood batons, patrol car dash cams and training. This is all in an effort to emphasize de-escalation, rather than deadly force.
It's not that Stuckart is against the equipment upgrades, he just wants to see upgrades coupled with more officers.
"Anything we do needs to be tied to having more police officers on the ground," Stuckart said.
After police layoffs last year, Stuckart felt justified in proposing, at last Monday's City Council meeting, the use of additional reserve funds to hire 10 new police officers.
"You have reserves for emergencies and, to me, when you're laying off police officers and firefighters I'm not sure what more of an emergency you have," Stuckart said.
Currently, Spokane has funds for the 276 officers on their force. Similarly, populated cities like Rochester, New York; Boise, Idaho; and Montgomery, Alabama have 850, 310 and 524 officers, respectively.
If you as the Police Chief, he'd like to see as many as 350 police officers for Spokane. To start that process, the police department held an orientation for potential recruits this weekend.
"I think we're in a situation that historically we haven't faced in years. Our resources are below levels that we haven't seen since maybe the 70's," Lieutenant Rick Dobrow said. "We just don't have enough resources are the situation is not dire, but it can't get any worse."
Right now, the department has 10 positions to fill from retirements and transfers. Stuckart's proposal would have added 10 additional officers. However, it was shot down in a 4 to 3 vote.
"It takes 18 months for officers, from the time they're hired until they're on the ground working for the people, and so I was just trying to get a jump start," Stuckart said.
Now, Stuckart says, the Police Chief will consider asking voters for a property tax increase in November to pay for more officers and body cameras.
"There are a number of different options on the table to help us get more officers that we're looking at and considering, the biggest priority right now for the chief is getting officers on the street," Police Spokesperson Monique Cotton said.
The Use of Force Commission agrees with Stuckart's stance that more officers are needed in addition to equipment and training upgrades, but are happy to see even a part of their recommendations getting funded.