SPOKANE, Wash. — The Spokane County Board of Commissioners approved a $2.7 million investment in public safety for next year. That funding will allow the sheriff's office to hire 27 new deputies.
Sheriff Ozzie Knezovich said this will help his office keep up with the county’s growing population.
Out of the 27 new positions, Knezovich said 19 will be on patrol, two are major crimes detectives, and six positions are restored from the 2020 budget that was reduced due to COVID.
The Sheriff expects these additional deputies will help his office keep up with the county's growing population.
"If you don't have a safe community, you don't have economic development anymore," Knezovich said.
He said Washington state's average amount of deputies per 1,000 people is 1.4 deputies. Right now, Spokane County only has .07 per 1,000.
Not only that, but Knezovich claims the crime rate in Spokane County is seeing a significant jump. He said Spokane Valley alone had four times its usual number of homicides this year.
"I'm really glad to the board listened to our proposal because this is a seven-year proposal to bring back law enforcement and add positions for over the next seven years to meet the demands of his community," Knezovich said. "So I really appreciate the board's foresight on this."
As part of the county’s seven-year plan, Sheriff Knezovich says are there are ongoing discussions to add another 15 deputies in 2023.
The Spokane Police Department is also adding four civilian positions, which it hopes to fill in January.
They include two new records specialists, one Technical Assistance Response Unit (TARU) supervisor, and one victim’s advocate—which is an entirely new position within the department.
“These are positions that we've wanted for a while and not a reflection of anything that has happened immediately preceding this," SPD Spokesperson Cpl. Nick Briggs said. "But just a need based on increased call volume, increased incidents and more people being in Spokane."
Briggs said it just wasn’t until recently funding became available to create the positions. Specifically, through the criminal justice tax and a levy passed in 2019.