Friday, December 21, 2012

Spokane police chief announces department restructuring as part of five-year plan

Posted By on Fri, Dec 21, 2012 at 10:36 AM

Spokane Police Chief Frank Straub announced this morning a significant reorganization of the police department as part of his five-year strategic plan to improve cooperation between each division and refocus officers on the prevention of crime.

After years of scandal and distraction, Straub says the Spokane Police Department must move the right people into the right places to form a new foundation around the core mission of preventing and solving crime. He stressed the importance of releasing the Strategic Plan before the start of 2013.

"This way the department will know, the community will know, come January we're hitting the ground running and this is the direction we're going," he says.

The Strategic Plan includes several goals and procedural changes to introduce over the next five years. Those goals include implementing body cameras, achieving state accreditation, expanding community policing efforts, sending officers through crisis intervention training and encouraging cooperation with the public.

"The focus of the 2013 Strategic Plan is to better align the Spokane Police Department to meet the demands of our mission," the plan states, "to prevent and reduce crime, improve the quality of life for our residents and visitors, and to do so with integrity, accountability, and transparency."

Straub says he has already started reshaping divisions by promoting people into new positions across a broader-based command structure. Those changes include moving crime analysis to the same division as field operations to improve communication, as well as shifting tactical and neighborhood operations under a single strategic operations division.

"In the past, the Spokane Police Department has relied on a traditional, vertical organizational structure, with separate bureaus designed around specific functions," the plan states. "In reality, however, most police work takes place laterally, moving across different units that are serving a common purpose."

The chief has moved Internal Affairs and Public Information under his office, with plans to eventually hire a civilian communications director. The assistant chief will oversee community outreach, organizational development and other operations. Straub says additional changes will help divisions share intelligence and collaborate on tracking crime patterns.

"Our goal now is every day we're going to open up the day with the discussion of crime," he says. "We can't have a situation where crime keeps going up."

Other initiatives focus on community involvement and internal efficiency. Straub says the plan is the first step in an ongoing evaluation and conversation about how the department can improve.

"That's the beginning of the discussion to move forward and I think you evaluate it constantly," he says. "Are we meeting our marks and are these the right marks to be meeting? It's a fluid document. It's a document that's meant to be a living document."

Like the Use of Force Commission report issued yesterday, Straub notes the need for additional funding to pay for additional staffing and updated equipment. The chief says the department had 300 officers in 2004. Now that staffing is down to 273, which he described as "too little."

"I would like to have closer to 300," he says.

Overall, Straub says he hopes the plan will clarify the department's mission and provide a framework for future improvement efforts.

"We will work diligently to ensure our members are accountable to each other and the community we serve, and act in accordance with our values," the plan states. "Over the next five years, the Spokane Police Department will become a model of policing in the Pacific Northwest, as well as a model of excellence for the police profession."

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Jacob Jones

Staff writer Jacob Jones covers criminal justice, natural resources, military issues and organized labor for the Inlander.