Not the guys and gals in uniform, but the Community Oriented Policing Services program which was established here in Spokane back in 1991 when I was on the job. A program that became a national model as a method for involving a community in crime prevention.
The COPS Story
In 1991, two young girls were abducted from their neighborhood in Spokane’s West Central area. One was found dead, the other has never been found. The shocking crimes brought West Central residents together and they were determined to find ways to make their children and homes safer. The meetings included representatives from the Police Department, Spokane Public Schools, the city’s Human Services Department, West Central Community Center, and the Washington State University (W.S.U.) Cooperative Extension Service. After months of meetings, these groups, police officers, and citizens from the neighborhood created C.O.P.S. West.
The police-trained citizen volunteers take reports, gather information about possible drug houses, and become effective crime fighters. A merchant donated a building at Elm and Boone, and volunteers renovated it. A governing board was created with the involvement of scores of residents. The volunteers established a schedule to keep the center open daily. Police officers use the location to write reports, meet with residents, and afford a visible presence. Since the establishment of C.O.P.S. West, there are now a total of 12 neighborhoods that have opened their own C.O.P.S. substations. In each neighborhood where a C.O.P.S. substation is operating, it becomes a focal point for citizen involvement. We hope, eventually, most Spokane neighborhoods will have their own variation of a C.O.P.S. Shop, staffed by trained volunteers who take an active part in their own community safety.
Recent news articles have reported that Mayor Condon attempted to bully his way through a meeting regarding COPS that was supposed to be about “the police department’s Youth Police Initiative and Spokane Police Activities League, but veered into food donations from Spokane Public Schools for the youth outreach programs and Condon’s opinions on COPS volunteers”. Condon subsequently made a half-hearted public apology for his conduct.
Condon isn’t the only individual that has tried to bully leaders of COPS into doing what SPD wanted them to do. Frank Straub did the same thing, only Straub on the occasions he tried it ran into to the wrong COPS leader and when the Straub realized his usual bullying tactics weren’t going to work he transformed from bully to meek and mild.
Since COPS inception in 1991 there has always been an issue regarding the extent of involvement SPD should have in the independent COPS program. Since COPS must rely on funding from the City, as well as the donations they receive, it has always been a balancing act for COPS leadership to maintain the necessary COPS independence while at the same time working closely with SPD.
The meeting in question was intended to be about two of Condon and Straub’s highly touted SPD pet programs YPI and SPAL for which there is ZERO legitimate analysis of their worth to the Community. The meeting in question of course was all about MONEY. If COPS was utilized as a conduit to fund SPD programs the Mayor wouldn’t have to worry about YPI and SPAL being cut during the normal budget process by the City Council since the majority of Council Members strongly support the longstanding and successful COPS program.
It isn’t at all surprising that the Mayor would offer “opinions on COPS volunteers”, those opinions as I understand it weren’t very positive, and the reason they weren’t may be tied to complaints he has received from some regarding Condon and Straub’s disastrous and costly “Precinct Model”. Some of those complaints include the fact that cops are not always available at the precincts even during the day and simply leave a note on the door saying they are out. That fact has been related to me on more than one occasion by different people. In one case of the cases related to me there was a sign on the door of the Downtown SPD Precinct stating they were gone but the truth was despite the sign on the door there were actually two women police officers inside. In another case at the North Precinct an individual went there twice both times finding a note on the door saying all the cops were gone even though the individual heard what they thought was someone inside. The individual ended up going to the COPS Shop located directly across the street where they were told this was standard practice at the North Precinct.
Here is something you will read here first! An agreement has been made between COPS and SPD to move the COPS Shop which was across the street from the North Precinct into the Precinct, which in my view is just one element of proof Condon and Straub’s highly touted “Precinct Model” is a failure.
The North Precinct building was of course purchased from a retired cop, remodeled at great expense to us, opened with great fanfare by now acting Chief Craig Meidl, yet the public has NO IDEA, WHAT, IF ANY, impact this precinct has had on reducing crime or whether it is in the least bit cost effective.
The reason COPS is a big threat to the Mayor and the current SPD administration is simple, with all of the various COP Shops located throughout Spokane, which are the product of neighborhoods getting together and working their butts off to make them happen and work, why has the City spent so much money on a Precinct Model when ALL of the infrastructure was already in place, had been very successfully utilized in the past, and was a national model for other communities.
Mayor Condon knows full well others besides myself are beginning to ask the same questions, for which he has NO LEGITIMATE ANSWERS. As has been reported in other media the Mayor and SPD are moving away from the Condon/Straub “Precinct Model”.
“Unwinding one of former chief Frank Straub’s signature achievements, the Spokane Police Department is no longer pursuing a plan to create decentralized police precincts.”
Pretty obvious to most that the problem for the Mayor is to find a way out of his failed programs without it having an effect on his political aspirations beyond the Mayor of Spokane.
We all are aware of the infamous “Furniture-Gate Case” involving the Downtown Precinct where a Police Administrator, Captain Brad Arleth, finally stood up to the Condon Administration and actually told the truth, something the likes of Tracy Meidl, Justin Lundgren, and Sarah Lynds are apparently fearful of doing. But if there isn’t a way to fund one of Tracy Meidl’s gravy positions at SPD it is understandable why her interruption of events might be bias. Of course Arleth had to suffer the inevitable bullying consequences from the Condon Administration, which have still not been resolved. Arleth of course in standing up to the Condon Administration knowingly took himself out of the running as the new SPD Chief…that I admire. Interestingly although there have been no internal candidates for the Chief of Police position I learned that the City Council, who actually have the last say in who is hired, MAY ask Mayor Condon to hire Arleth… that of course could be an interesting battle if it takes place especially given Condon’s refusal to invoke Garrity with the cops who are witnesses in the Cotton/Straub case. Arleth is well respected in the community and with the majority of cops at SPD.
I am still waiting to hear back from some folks on this story whose information may or may not add to the story, if it adds to the story I will update.
I REPORT YOU DECIDE!!!