Woodward, Cathcart Propose Police, Behavior Health Partnership in East Central

Brian Coddington, Communications Director, 509.625.6740

Tuesday, May 17, 2022 at 1:38 p.m.

Mayor Nadine Woodward and Councilmember Michael Cathcart are proposing to co-locate police and behavioral health services in the former East Central Library location as an extension of similar programs in other neighborhoods.

Members of the East Central neighborhood joined Woodward and Cathcart in proposing that the 6,000-square-feet library location, which relocated to a newly constructed branch at Liberty Park, be used as a neighborhood policing location with on-site behavioral health resources in the same building. The Spokane Police Department currently partners with behavioral health professionals at its downtown precinct to bring critical services to people in crisis and free up police resources for other calls.

“This is a chance to advance the neighborhood policing model as a conduit to service professionals who can really meet community needs,” Woodward said. “Community centers are places where people can get to know each other and access resources at the neighborhood level. There’s tremendous potential for officers to be better integrated into the neighborhood at a proactive human level.”

The police department currently operates a police precinct out of a church on the lower South Hill. The library location concept, which must be approved by the City Council, would replace that as a workspace for officers and have a space for behavioral health professionals.

“I’m really interested in strengthening connections between police officers and the neighborhoods they serve,” Cathcart said. “We are doing that work in the neighborhoods around the Northeast Community Center and after listening to feedback from the East Central Neighborhood it made sense to explore what might be a right fit as East Central continues to evolve and grow its vibrancy.”

Spokane police and the Spokane County Sheriff’s Office have partnered with Frontier Behavioral Health to send officers and professionals together into the field. The partnership contacted 4,090 people in crisis, a nearly 10% increase over the previous year. Of those encounters, 0.8% were arrested and more than 4,500 calls were diverted from patrol and freed up those officers to respond to other needs.

Cathcart has championed a new neighborhood policing model as a pilot in Hillyard and has supported with Woodward and others new behavioral health resources at the northeast community center campus. Woodward, Cathcart, and police Chief Craig Meidl are proposing to partner with the East Central neighborhood to bring a similar set of resources and expand that pilot to the former library location, which shares a parking lot with the Martin Luther King Jr. Community Center, and explore an opportunity in the West Central neighborhood.

The proposal has drawn support from the MLK Center, East Central Neighborhood Council, and the East Sprague Business Association. A virtual community ThoughtExchange conversation hosted by the City Council in December showed wide support for a neighborhood policing location, which gained momentum after a series of high-profile incidents. Woodward and Cathcart will work with the rest of the City Council through the community engagement process.