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A New Day 

Change coming to Spokane Police; plus, some homeless get a home

click to enlarge Tony Welliver, who is homeless, prepares to give a speech at a memorial service on Friday honoring the homeless who have died this year. - MARSHALL E. PETERSON, JR.
  • Marshall E. Peterson, Jr.
  • Tony Welliver, who is homeless, prepares to give a speech at a memorial service on Friday honoring the homeless who have died this year.

Reforming the Spokane Police

Two new reports on the Spokane Police Department offered long-awaited recommendations on cultural and operational reforms to improve the agency’s crime prevention efforts, community relations and accountability.

The independent Use of Force Commission this past week released a draft report of 26 different recommendations to move the department toward new conflict de-escalation techniques and improved transparency. The draft also suggests implementing body cameras, expanding crisis intervention training and providing funding for additional officers.

“A community cannot have a great police force on the cheap,” Commission Chairman Earl Martin says. “The Spokane Police Department is a department in need of resources.”

Police Chief Frank Straub also released his 2013 Strategic Plan, which outlines a significant restructuring of the department and several steps to refocus officers on crime prevention. The chief also named a new assistant chief, promoting former Major Craig Meidl to the position.

Straub says the reorganization will allow patrol officers to better cooperate with investigators. The more lateral command structure also allows specialized neighborhood officers to work alongside drug and fraud specialists.

“A large part of what we’re doing is freeing up our police officers to be police officers again,” he says.

— JACOB JONES

A Homeless Home

Ervin Osman, a red-bearded 42-year-old, says he became homeless last December. And as this winter got colder, he remained without a home.“I have a camp set up on the South Hill,” he says. “I’m living in a tent.”

Last Thursday, that changed. Osman was one of the first handful residents to move into FATHER BACH HAVEN, Spokane’s first and only apartment complex devoted entirely to housing the chronically homeless.

This isn’t be a shelter, or “transitional housing” with a time-limit. As long as Osman pays his rent — set on a sliding scale according to his income — his place will be permanent. A part of Catholic Charities, the organization that runs the House of Charity men’s shelter, the residence will hold 50 formerly homeless men and women.

To be eligible, tenants have to make less than $13,000 a year and pay 30 percent of what they make in rent. Already, 87 people have applied.

When Osman opens the door to his new living space, he finds his furniture pre-built into it — a bed, a kitchen table, a dresser, a microwave/convection oven and a full-size refrigerator.

“It means I’m safe,” Osman says. “It means I have a roof over my head. It’s like a new opportunity, you know?”

— DANIEL WALTERS

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