Even amidst a year of COVID and national civil unrest, SPD had many bright spots in 2020. Here are a few;
Julie Humphreys, 509.625.5868
Thursday, December 31, 2020 at 12:13 p.m.
SPD launches Behavioral Health Unit (BHU) in January in partnership with the Sheriff’s Department, the Valley Police Department, and Frontier Behavioral Health. The BHU pairs law enforcement officers with mental health clinicians to reach people in crisis. Often these people experience co-occurring disorders including mental health and substance abuse. In its first year, the BHU contacted 1,920 individuals with 70% of the contacts resulting in outcomes other than jail or hospitalization. BHU members focused on identifying the needs of the people they encountered via a call for service, following up, and getting those individuals the help they need.
Spokane Police Detectives solve a 35 year old murder case. Even with an exhaustive search for the killer of 12-year old Marsi Belecz back in 1985, the case went cold until last year. DNA from the crime scene was submitted to a company specializing in genetic genealogy and a profile of the suspected killer was created. In March of this year, SPD obtained a search warrant to exhume the body of the suspected killer and test his DNA. It was a match of incredible certainty, 1.1 nonillion; (1,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000). The killer, Clayton Giese, was 22 at the time of the killing and died 4 years later in a car crash. This cold case was highlighted in a national TV program set to air next month.
New Downtown Police Precinct opens. In September a new centralized Downtown Precinct became a reality. Mayor Nadine Woodward made opening the precinct a top priority and quickly brought the concept to reality. The precinct is staffed with additional officers who have high visibility making for a safer downtown core for everyone; businesses, visitors, residents, and the community as a whole.
SPD continues hiring police officers even during a summer of calls to defund police departments across the country. In July SPD held its largest graduation class in more than two decades and the most diverse with 5 women, several people over age 40, and others who represent a broad cross section of our community. The 14 officers graduated are the first hired under a 2019 levy, passed overwhelmingly by Spokane voters, for additional police officers. Hiring continued this month with the addition of 4 lateral officers from Seattle.
The Bicycle Rapid Response Team (BRRT) mobilizes. In October SPD added a new element to its Tactical Team (TAC) - officers conducting patrol and responses from bikes rather than on foot for marches, special events and other gatherings. Bike patrols are increasingly used in downtown and other high traffic areas for easier access to crime scenes and other locations where police assistance is needed. Officers on bikes are more accessible than those in vehicles, allowing citizens to interact with their police departments in a more personal way.
Community Outreach continues through COVID. Drive-by birthday and graduation celebrations became the norm allowing officers to continue interaction in neighborhoods and giving community members a personal touch with their police. The Spokane Police Activities League (PAL) carried on through a partnership with the YMCA and with necessary COVID restrictions in place. PAL is an outreach program that helps build trusting relationships between at-risk youth and local law enforcement. Again this summer children enjoyed athletic programs like hiking and disc golf as well as STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) enrichment activities with police officers all while learning core values including integrity and honesty. And COVID could not steal Christmas. Once again Spokane Police Officers adopted families in need and blessed them with gifts and food impacting 110 individuals. New this year, the BRRT donated 18 bikes to children identified through Spokane schools and delivered them, with the help of Santa, just before Christmas!
Thank you Spokane for your incredible support during a tough year. Your letters, emails, phone calls, treats for officers, prayers and more were appreciated more than you may know. Here’s to a better, brighter 2021!
Officer John O'Brien