Yard Giraffes, fireworks at midnight, and the very force that patrols our streets are among the various law enforcement concerns facing the city’s decision makers at this time. All of these issues will be met with different degrees of urgency. These are the issues and their current state of affairs.
Last month we reported that the City of Deer Park had recently hired a new Code Enforcement Officer, Bill Schultz. Before Mr. Schultz took the position, it had been vacant for a few months. Now, after serving in the Code Enforcement posting for only a short time, Mr. Schultz has resigned with no explanation. This is troubling to the City in that, again, they are without a Code Enforcement Officer.
Fourth of July
On another front, there is concern about the consumer fireworks used throughout the city of Deer Park during the 4th of July and surrounding days. The Mayor brought in a total of 4 deputies plus SCOPE to help patrol during the Independence Day celebrations. The officers were meant to enforce Deer Park’s laws as well as keep everyone safe during the festivities. However, the Spokane County Sheriff has refused to enforce city firework laws unless the city of Deer Park makes all consumer fireworks illegal.
The opinions and standpoints on this subject are vast. Many citizens were upset at the many out of towners who would light off fireworks late into the night and beyond the limitations set by Deer Park’s laws. A dumpster was also set on fire by fireworks that were not properly soaked and extinguished before disposal.
The City Council Meeting on July 18th was beset by a small group of concerned citizens who gathered to ask for all fireworks on private property to be made illegal. They cited lack of sleep as well as being deprived of general peace and quiet. On Facebook, where the discussion has continued, many speak up for our soldiers who may be suffering from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) after serving our country in combat.
On the other side of the argument are those asking to be allowed to keep their freedoms by lighting off fireworks to celebrate their country, on their own property. The City Council sent out questionnaires with the water bills. These documents will ask the citizens of Deer Park to speak their voice about what should be done. Fill out our poll at DPGazette.com/fireworkspoll
Deer Park City Law Enforcement
The city of Deer Park is still negotiating with the Spokane County Sheriff. No decisions have been finalized yet. Deer Park is still under contract with Spokane County and has until January 1, 2020 before the current contract expires.
On August 1st, the City Council had their regularly scheduled meeting; also present were special guests Ozzie Knezovich, Spokane County Sheriff, and City Attorney Charles Zimmerman for the long awaited conversation about Deer Park’s law enforcement dilemma.
Since 2011, Deer Park has been under the current contract with Spokane County. The 2011 contract provides for 2 Deputies to be dedicated to Deer Park. These Deputies provide law enforcement coverage roughly 42% of the time. Recently, however, the Spokane County Commissioners determined that Deer Park was being undercharged for the law enforcement coverage being supplied by the county. The required yearly sum has been approximately $500,000; it would be doubled to nearly $1 Million.
Negotiation teams from Deer Park and Spokane County are currently developing an alternative option, which would merge Deer Park with Sheriff District 14. District 14 spans a large area, from the southern border of Stevens County to the northern edge of Wandermere. This long strip is roughly 18 miles long and 8 miles wide; Deer Park is near the center. This considerable territory is varied with rural and urban spaces. An alternative plan under negotiation would leave District 14 with only a single dedicated deputy to patrol and oversee it. The deputies currently dedicated to Deer Park would be reassigned, likely to another district. The full force of the Spokane County Sheriff’s Department will be able to provide backup should they be needed; however, there is no way of knowing how long that backup would take to arrive when required.
Alternatively, Deer Park could take steps over the next year and a half to set up their own Police Department. We are told that 4 to 7 deputies would be ideal to serve a city the size of Deer Park. Estimated yearly costs for a dedicated Deer Park Police Department with 4 to 7 deputies would range from $1.2 to 1.6 million a year. This would most likely require an increase in taxes. An advantage is that a Deer Park Police Department would be under the direction of the Mayor’s office.
At the root of this problem is a budget limitation, and deputy shortages that have been plaguing Spokane County for some time now. In 2006 it was projected that the Sheriff would need to add 32 deputies to meet county needs; however, since that projection was made, a further 75 deputy positions have been left vacant.
On August 3, at approximately 4:20pm, Sheriff’s Deputies responded to North Sherman Road about 4 miles north of Deer Park, for a report of an agitated man armed with a gun. Responding Deputies received additional information that the man had hit mailboxes with his vehicle, appeared intoxicated, and held a gun to his head stating he wanted to kill himself.
Deputy Daniel Middlebos was the first to arrive at the scene within minutes, contacted the man and attempted to deescalate the extremely tense scene. Moments later, the man produced a handgun from his waistband area and brought it up toward the Deputy’s position. The Deputy Middlebos fired his weapon, striking the man.
Deputy Middlebos requested immediate medical response and began lifesaving medical attention but the man was later pronounced deceased at the scene.
No other citizens or deputies were injured during this incident. Deputy Middlebos, who has nearly 30 years law enforcement experience and multiple commendations was placed on administrative leave as per policy.
The Officer Involved Protocol was enacted and Spokane Investigative Regional Response (SIRR) Team responded to conduct the investigation and process the scene for evidence. The SIRR Team is comprised of multiple agencies in eastern Washington, including the Spokane Police Department, Washington State Patrol, Stevens County Sheriff’s Office, Spokane County Sheriff’s Office and the Spokane Valley Police Department.
The name of the decedent will be released at a later date.