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Police set to play significant role in this year's Bloomsday

Spokane is hosting the first in-person Bloomsday since the pandemic started, and police play a significant role in keeping everyone safe.

SPOKANE, Wash. — In just a few days, streets will shut down and thousands of runners and walkers will cram together at the Bloomsday start line.

Spokane is hosting the first in-person Bloomsday since the pandemic started, and police play a significant role in keeping everyone safe.

"This is a celebration of spring and a beginning of our fitness year and our outside stuff," retired Spokane police detective Al Odenthal said.

Odenthal is on the Bloomsday board of directors and is in charge of security.

"There is no indications coming from law enforcement or elsewhere that would indicate Bloomsday in any way is a target of any group or individual," Odenthal said.

Still, law enforcement has to be ready to respond to any and all emergencies.

"Our concern for safety and security is where we have big concentrations of people where you could have a mass casualty event," Odenthal said. "The start and the finish line are two of those things. Several years ago we had the Tsarnaev brothers in Boston and it was like three weeks before Bloomsday."

Just like previous years, backpacks are not allowed in congested areas close to the start and finish line. The rule does not apply for participants in the final start group, who often have strollers and small children with them.

"If you are on the race course you have to have your bib attached and showing, plainly visible to people who are running the course," Spokane Police Sgt. Teresa Fuller said.

Fuller said officers and barricades will be set up to make sure no vehicles end up on the course accidentally or intentionally.

"We want to make sure it's a safe event for everybody," Fuller said.

Organizers are even trying to keep pets safe. If you have a dog, don't bring it to Bloomsday.

"Even if you've got a trained service dog we'd prefer you call us, we'll get a human to go with you," Odenthal said. Dogs can be trampled in the crowd or runners.

Police are asking participants and spectators to keep an eye out for anything unusual.

"We will have a marked presence on the course and like I said if anybody sees anything that's suspicious or need to point out to officers or sees something that might be a safety issue even, let one of our officers or volunteers know," Fuller said.

All that security comes at a cost. During the last in-person Bloomsday in 2019, Spokane police racked up about $61,000 in overtime. Traditionally, Bloomsday would reimburse the city 60% of the cost. However, this year, the city is covering the bill to help organizations like Bloomsday and Hoopfest, which have lost money during the pandemic.

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