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Deer Park explores creating police department | Boomtown

The town currently contracts out law enforcement coverage through the Spokane County Sheriff's Office.

DEER PARK, Wash. — Deer Park is the type of town people call home for a reason.

The quiet and safety of Deer Park Meadows subdivision drew Lynda Androsky three years ago. While still quiet and safe, she says it's since changed.

“Oh yeah, it’s really growing," Androsky said. "There’s several subdivisions going in. A lot of people like the quiet, small town atmosphere.”

Right now, Deer Park contracts out to the Spokane County Sheriff's Office; two deputies patrol the area full-time. City council recently approved a new contract to add a third deputy sometime this summer, with the option to add a fourth at a later date.

City council member Caleb Stapp says they've been trying to get more law enforcement coverage for nearly a decade.

“Every time over the last seven years we’ve gotten this consistent answer: 'Deer Park, you don’t need this yet,'" he said.

For Jason Upchurch, another member of council, it's still not enough.

“Our desire was to have more," he said, adding that while he and other members of council have been happy with the quality of Spokane County patrols, they're looking at greater quantity.

It's what led him to compare coverage and costs in comparable towns like Chewelah, which has its own police force.

“So, it’s $900,000 a year for three deputies. So, about a 120 hours of coverage every week," Upchurch said. "So to put that into perspective, in Chewelah, their entire policing budget is I think around $935,000 and they have five officers.”

The potential cost savings is just one reason Upchurch has led the push for a Deer Park police department.

March numbers from Spokane County show while crime in Deer Park has increased, in one case 500% year over year (an increase from one reported vehicle prowling in March 2022 to six in March 2023), the actual crime rate is still low.

Credit: Spokane County Sheriff's Office
Crime statistics for Deer Park

There are other numbers that concern those wanting more police presence. 

“I’ve heard those stories of longer response times, 45 minutes to an hour to get out after a call," Stapp said. 

The same March report shows Deer Park residents are calling for law enforcement more; citizen-initiated calls for service increased from 1,387 to 1,617 between 2020 and 2022. Though the report shows those calls for service without deputy response also increased in the same time period: 405 unanswered calls to 627.

“When I read the reports and I see a 50% increase over two years, that’s a big increase," Upchurch said. "And I think it’s those kind of things people are concerned about.”

Though not everyone is concerned, at least about crime rates.

“People are excited about a fake dream, you know. Because it’s being sold that way," said Mike Achurra. "All we’re going to end up getting is higher taxes and tickets.”

After living in cities like Portland and Seattle, Achurra isn't worried about what he says is petty crime in Deer Park. 

“We can’t afford the other services [SCSO] provide at the low price we’re already paying: investigation fees, all the different parts of the lab fees, all that. We can’t afford that," Achurra said. "If there were a serious crime right now, the sheriff’s office would cover all those costs.”

Cost is one of the big questions the city is now asking about creating a police department from scratch. In early April, the city put out a request for proposals for a consulting firm to help answer some of the lingering questions and concerns. 

“This is the first serious look into starting our own police department again that I’m aware of," Upchurch said, adding the town did have a force in the 1970s.

The city is asking for a firm to analyze the possible funding, staffing, and whether existing infrastructure could support a police force over continuing the sheriff's contract. 

Stapp says even people who have balked at creating a police department within the next few years have voiced the need for one in five, ten, or fifteen years if the town keeps up its growth.

“So, I would like it to happen sooner rather than later," Upchurch said. "Again, things aren’t gonna get cheaper over time.”

The deadline for proposals is May 17 so a committee can select a firm. The presentation to council on the study is expected to happen by fall. 

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