SPOKANE , Wash. -- The Spokane Police Department said it is becoming all too common to be extremely busy at a time period when there are more than twice as many emergency calls as they have officers working.
The Spokane Police Chief said he agrees that the department needs more officers and when the mayor released next year's budget, the commitment is there to bring staffing up to a full 300 officers. There are only 268 officers now. Chief Frank Straub said the hiring process is a long one though.
"It's the valleys that kill you," Chief Straub said. "And right now, we're in a valley."
Chief Straub added that it will take a combination of aggressive recruiting and patience to get staffing levels up in the department.
"The idea is to get to 300 and then continue to hire so that you don't have these big drops. That then a huge effort to get out of," said Chief Straub.
There is a huge effort underway now to test new officers and recruit others working in different departments.
"You're going to see those bodies [extra officers] go to three different places," Chief Straub said. "The first is filling those patrol cars because patrol is the foundation of any policing operation."
He added that the other two priorities are investigators and neighborhood conditions officers, saying crime rates do not go down just because staffing does.
"We still have to fill the radio cars, we still have to respond to calls for service. So, how do you do that? We use overtime," Chief Straub said.
The city has already spent nearly $1.1 million in overtime for the first half of the year. The department also loses 10 officers a year to retirement. This means that recruiting has to become standard operating procedure.
"I think we have to look at the department and public safety as an investment versus an expense," Chief Straub said.
It takes 18 months to two years to get a new officer on the ground and ready to work. That means that Chief Straub hopes to reach 300 officers by the first half of 2015 at the earliest.
The next official test for new recruits will likely come in 2014. City Council still has to approve the budget which funds 300 officers for the department.