SPD 2023 Highlights

SPD is constantly evolving to better serve the community - see highlights, with special mention of highlights under Chief Meidl’s tenure at SPD.

Julie Humphreys, Public Safety Communication Manager, 509.625.5868

Thursday, January 4, 2024 at 4:12 p.m.

SPD takes on additional dispatching duties

Spokane Police Dispatch took over emergency call receiving for the City of Spokane as of Jan 2nd, 2023. The initial 9-1-1 call is answered by Spokane Regional Emergency Communications (SREC), then immediately transferred to SPD for further triaging to determine what type of police response is necessary. This change created a significant increase in workload which SPD dispatch team members quickly adapted to without sacrificing the level of service community members and officers deserve. In just over the first 7 months of 2023, our dispatch team made or received more than 131,000 phone calls; over 47,000 of which were incoming emergency calls. SPD dispatchers are trained and adept at managing high priority emergency calls and coordinating the appropriate police response, all while talking with often frantic and emotional callers. Beyond that, they also regularly help people solve non-emergent incidents when there isn’t a need for an officer response. In just the month of August, dispatchers handled 1,518 of these incidents - on only 5 call types - that otherwise would have required a patrol response. This saves patrol officers time, freeing units up for higher priority incidents, and saved taxpayers over $150,000 in officer time each month. The call receivers spend an average of 2 mins 59 seconds on each emergency call, and our center averages 25 calls per hour. This average bumps up in the early afternoon for a 5-hour window in which phone calls average 34.8 per hour. This additional call receiving work for SPD dispatchers in 2023 is on top of the more than 250,000 police incidents generated last year, most of which require dispatching or information gathering on the part of the communications team. Despite the enormous addition of work for the communications team, they have far exceeded the national standards for an emergency call receiving center.  The National Emergency Number Association (NENA) requires call centers to answer 90% of their calls within 10 seconds, and 95% within 20 seconds. Once the call is transferred to SPD, they answer 97% of calls within 10 seconds and 99.8% within 20 seconds. And in situations where seconds count, that level of performance can mean the difference between life and death.

Staffing and Hiring

SPD continued to hire some of the best and brightest men and women to serve in our ranks despite a challenging past three years for police officer recruitment and retention nationwide, including Spokane. In 2023 we hired 34 officers, and today are as close to fully staffing our 352 budgeted positions as we have been in years. We start the new year with only 2 vacancies, which we anticipate will be filled quickly by laterals with a strong desire to work in Spokane. This success is not an accident; we have made recruiting and training a priority, dedicating a sergeant to both hiring and training, while incorporating a full-time recruiting employee. Despite our successes in hiring, the demand for police services still exceeds our capacity; we are 200 officers short of the national average of officers per thousand residents. And that is during a time when calls for service are up – about 14% in the past 2 years alone. Still our officers show up, handle as many calls as they possibly and safely can, and give their all to each and every interaction. A reorganization plan implemented at the beginning of January 2023 has also assisted in having more officers on the streets, reducing call response times, and allowing more pro-active policing time for officers. The reorganization included creating sectors with Captains and Lieutenants assigned to sector teams which provides officers increased supervision and accountability in their designated areas of the city.

Addressing Crime

The unfortunate reality in 2023 is that crime in Spokane was up in several categories. SPD dedicated considerable resources to address negative crime trends, and the strategic enforcement efforts resulted in significant arrests. Here are just some of our mission successes:

  • The Violent Crimes Task Force was formed in spring of 2022 to identify and arrest the most active and dangerous offenders committing the most violent crimes including murder, rape, and robbery. In 2023, the Task Force arrested 57 individuals identified as violent or dangerous on felony charges and 19 individuals identified as violent or dangerous for felony property crimes. Task Force members also seized 44 firearms, executed 15 search warrants, and seized more than $250,000 and 8 vehicles – currency and cars used to facilitate, or profit from, serious criminal activity.
  • The Special Investigative Unit (SIU) concentrates on investigations into those dealing narcotics, arresting dealers, and removing dangerous drugs from our streets. In 2023, the Unit seized more than 60,000 fentanyl pills, nearly 9,000 individual meth dosage units, more than 23,000 individual heroin dosage units, upwards of 12,000 individual cocaine dosage units, and more than 44,000 individual powdered fentanyl units. Additionally, $269,418 and 29 firearms were seized.
  • The Stolen Property Enforcement and Recovery Unit (SPEAR): This unit was set up to address property and quality of life crime including significant retail theft and fraud. SPEAR is very effective in investigating and arresting chronic thieves and recovering stolen property for victims. In 2023, SPEAR charged 298 people with a total of 700 new felony charges and 217 misdemeanor charges. Additionally, SPEAR seized at least 35 firearms, 7 cars, an RV, and a motorcycle used to commit felony crimes. Last fall, a Kia/Hyundai Auto Theft Task Force was set up with resources from both SPD and SCSO. SPEAR members were a key part of this task force which identified two main suspects in a series of stolen and damaged vehicles and Ring Camera thefts. The two juveniles arrested had significant involvement in a group of juveniles responsible for numerous thefts. In addition, SPD continues to work with Kia/Hyundai owners to prevent vehicles from being stolen by issuing anti-theft clubs received through a Washington Auto Theft Prevention Authority grant.
  • SWAT: With increasing frequency, officers are facing violent suspects who either have the sole intention of harming officers or have recently committed other violent acts and are willing, and able, to continue doing so in order to avoid apprehension. Our SWAT team has been more active than ever as they take into custody the most violent suspects who present the greatest risk to public safety. The number of SWAT callouts is at record numbers, as is the number of violent offenders our agency comes into contact with each and every day. In 2023, there were 132 SWAT callouts compared to 108 in 2022. The increased training and tools provided to our SWAT team allows them to overwhelmingly end most situations peacefully and effectively.
  • The Spokane Regional Behavioral Health Unit (BHU): People experiencing behavioral health issues make up a significant portion of law enforcement calls for service, requiring a dedicated team of law enforcement and mental health clinicians to respond to such calls. BHU has many successes diverting people in crisis away from hospital emergency rooms or jail, thus freeing up space in those overtaxed facilities, while helping to ensure public safety and providing services for those in need with an eye toward long term solutions. In 2023, the BHU contacted 4,321 individuals, or approximately 360 people each month, with 74% of them having an outcome other than jail or hospital. The calls and incidents BHU team members manage relieve patrol officers allowing them to respond to other calls for service. In 2023, the BHU relieved an impressive 5,567 calls from patrol.
  • City Ordinances Adopted: Drug use and addiction plague our state and city at unprecedented levels. SPD worked with Spokane City Council members to provide our legislative body with the most accurate information regarding behavior endangering our community. Working together, the City of Spokane was able to implement a City Ordinance designed to curb the use of drugs in public, and put those willing to receive help in contact with the appropriate resources. Additionally, SPD worked closely with City Council to pass an ordinance last summer aimed at keeping our parks safe and free of property damage afterhours. The ordinance made it a misdemeanor to be in a city park when the parks are closed – previously doing so was a civil infraction. The ordinance was designed to provide a deterrent to the unlawful and violent behavior that resulted in nine shooting victims in city parks in 2022. SPD’s education efforts and public awareness of the Park Ordinance resulted in significant improvement in the environment at the parks afterhours. SPD’s education and enforcement efforts around both park violations and open drug use will continue in 2024 with the goal of making our public spaces safer for everyone.

Complaints down, Commendations up

SPD maintains a process that allows us to assess the actions of our employees with the ultimate objective of improving service and holding our employees accountable. Complaints sometimes reveal the need to modify a policy or procedure, or reveal a need for training. In 2023, complaints to SPD decreased 12% compared to 2022. Additionally, SPD continues to receive 3 times the commendations as complaints. In 2023, SPD saw a 12% increase in commendations compared to 2022.

SPD’s successes in providing the best possible public safety to our community did not happen in a vacuum in 2023. Many happened with community collaboration and all were accomplished under the leadership of former Police Chief Craig Meidl who retired at the end of 2023 after more than seven years as Chief. Here are just a few of the accomplishments under Chief Meidl (2016-2023):

WASPC Re-Accredited Agency (2018, 2022)

The Washington Association of Sheriffs and Police Chiefs (WASPC) Accreditation program reflects the highest professional standards of policing. Accreditation provides a review process for agencies to be certified as operating under industry best practices and standards. It is an extremely lengthy and involved process. The majority of law enforcement agencies in the state have yet to achieve accreditation; SPD has successfully accredited and re-accredited for the last decade.

WASPC Leadership (2020-2021)

Chief Meidl served as The Washington Association of Sheriffs and Police Chiefs (WASPC) President. WASPC consists of law enforcement leaders statewide who work toward a common goal of creating a safer state through legislative priorities, statewide programs, and training and development of best practices. WASPC is the lead agency in Washington State that speaks for the hundreds of Police Chiefs and Sheriffs as a unified voice. Chief Meidl understood the value WASPC brings to SPD and championed our involvement with WASPC.

Legislative Advocacy

Chief Meidl advocated for the adoption of law enforcement best practices and has a long history of implementing reforms to SPD practices before the actions of the Washington Legislature in recent years. He implemented the final recommendations of the Department of Justice Community Oriented Policing Services (DOJ COPS) collaborative reform process early in his tenure as Chief. Over the following years, he advocated for more substantial changes to the Use of Force, De-Escalation and Vehicle Pursuit policies. He also mandated every officer receive 40 hours of Crisis Intervention Training (CIT) in their first year of employment as well as offered an advanced CIT training for some officers including motivational interviewing. Later, he fought hard to prevent and modify reform legislation that he found to be contrary to officer and public safety or that diminished accountability for criminal offenders.

Active Bystandership for Law Enforcement (ABLE) Agency (2021-Present)

SPD was selected for the ABLE Project, Georgetown University Law Center’s national training and support initiative for U.S. law enforcement agencies committed to building a culture of peer intervention that prevents harm. This program includes intensive initial training and continued annual training.

SPD Mission, Vision, and Values

The Chief empaneled a committee representative of the department that crafted the current Mission, Vision and Values of the Spokane Police. Chief Meidl knew it was important that our guiding tenets were the creation of the men and women of the department and not a top-down mandate. Mission Statement: The Spokane Police Department is committed to providing excellence in policing, enhancing the safety and security of individuals, and building partnerships to better the lives of our community members as a whole. Vision: Our vision is to serve every member of our community with professionalism, integrity and compassion so that with every interaction we continue to build trust, preserve safety and model ethical policing.

Expanded and Enhanced Community Outreach

Chief Meidl prioritized and expanded community outreach efforts, such as the Police Activities League (PAL) and the Youth Police Initiative (YPI). It was under his leadership that these programs were emphasized and institutionalized into the department culture. Despite perennial staffing difficulties and almost unlimited demands upon the department, Chief Meidl remained steadfast in his commitment to maintain a dedicated Community Outreach Unit.

Once again we thank our community members for the honor to serve and protect you in 2023. Here’s to a safe and prosperous New Year!

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Media Relations Contact

Julie Humphreys