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"Where Will It Stop?" 

The Spokane City Council takes on domestic violence

Paying for Domestic Violence

In direct response to a deadly shooting at Rockwood Cancer Treatment Center last month, the Spokane City Council will vote Sept. 15 on two ordinances aimed at increasing PROTECTIONS FOR VICTIMS of domestic violence.

On July 8, Christopher Henderson shot his wife, Sheena, at the treatment center, where she worked, before turning the gun on himself, sparking calls for changes to state policies on weapons and mental health treatment. Council President Ben Stuckart and Councilmember Amber Waldref say it's also what prompted them to sponsor a pair of ordinances adding domestic violence victims to the city's nondiscrimination law and creating a new fund to support domestic violence prevention and prosecution programs. The changes would outlaw discrimination in housing, employment or public accommodations against those who've been "subjected to domestic violence." The new fund would be created using fines the municipal court is already charging domestic violence perpetrators. Exactly how much of those fines would be diverted and to which programs will be decided later by the court, Stuckart says.

In a council committee meeting Monday, Councilman Mike Fagan, who's been outspoken about the city's need to address domestic violence, said he was uncomfortable with adding victim status to the nondiscrimination ordinance because it is not a biological condition. Fagan also voted against additions of gender identity, military status and mental or physical disability to the law.

"The question is: Where will it stop?" Fagan said.

Committee Chair Jon Snyder asked Stuckart if he had any response.

"No," Stuckart said. "Let him vote against domestic violence protections. I don't have anything to say to that." (HEIDI GROOVER)

New Nurse Contracts

Union officials representing hundreds of local nurses and lab technicians last week announced the long-awaited ratification of a new labor contract with DEACONESS AND VALLEY HOSPITALS after 20 months of contentious negotiations, which included a one-day strike and brief lockout in December.

Healthcare 1199NW, a chapter of the Service Employees International Union, announced the agreement Friday, saying representatives had secured staffing level safeguards to ensure nurses and technicians did not get stretched so thin they could not properly monitor or care for patients.

"Our hospitals will now listen more closely to us when we say staffing is too low," says Deaconess technician Mary Robinson in an SEIU news release. "[Managers] can't send us home early when our patients need us."

Hospital officials previously emphasized they had maintained staffing levels in accordance with national standards, denying scheduling had created any issues. The new contract also includes "across-the-board" wage increases.

Deaconess and Valley hospitals, as well as Rockwood Clinic, all belong to the Community Health Systems network, which announced this week the theft of approximately 4.5 million patient records in a cyberattack from earlier this year. (JACOB JONES)

Big Armor

The timing isn't ideal. With the tear-gas and protests in Ferguson, Missouri, and the nationwide debate about militarized policing, the Kootenai County Sheriff's Office is spending $325,000 of drug forfeiture money to buy a LenCo BearCat G3, one of the heavy-duty ARMORED VEHICLES criticized in Ferguson.

But Kootenai County Sheriff's Capt. Dan Soumas says the BearCat is intended to be defensive, to save officer and citizen's lives.

"Years ago, SWAT teams had more advanced weapons than the general public," Soumas says. "That's not the case anymore."

The department could have gone even bigger: Post Falls, with a population under 30,000, is one of several Idaho communities with a Mine-Resistant Ambush Protected vehicle — or "MRAP" — obtained through a controversial surplus military equipment program. Last Friday, the Spokane County Sheriff's Office was another beneficiary of that program, obtaining two Bell OH-58 Kiowa helicopters from the U.S. Army at no cost.

"One of them will be used for parts — it's just going to be cannibalized," says Sgt. Dave Ellis with the Spokane County Sheriff's Air Support Unit. "And the other one will be used as backup for when the [current helicopter] is in maintenance." (DANIEL WALTERS)

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