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In State of City address, Spokane's mayor stays focused on public safety, urges collaboration

Spokane Mayor Nadine Woodward speaks to a crowd at the 2023 State of the City address.
Rebecca White
Spokane Mayor Nadine Woodward speaks to a crowd at the 2023 State of the City address.

In her annual state of the city address, Spokane Mayor Nadine Woodward called for a rollback state police reforms and more resources to combat drug crime.

Since 2020 racial justice protects, Washington lawmakers have limited when, and how police officers are allowed to use force, pursue and detain people they believe that committed a crime. A bipartisan bill that would give police more authority to pursue people is now before lawmakers.

Advocates for the current law say law enforcement car chases are dangerous and the current standard protects innocent bystanders. The leader of a key committee, Senator Manka Dhingra (D-Remond), has also shared concerns and declined to hear the proposal, making its pathway to becoming law much narrower.

Woodward, and Spokane Police Chief Craig Meidl said requiring officers to have probable cause that a person committed a crime, instead of reasonable suspicion, means officers aren’t able to intervene in potentially dangerous situations.

Woodward said the overturn of the state’s longstanding drug possession law, and the expiring compromise lawmaker passed while they debated longer-term solution, has also made people less safe. She pointed to a recent report of an infant being exposed to fentanyl.

“Sadly we've allowed our state to remove some of the very interventions that help law enforcement redirect damaging behaviors,” she said. “We're working hard to get a balanced solution that meets the needs of all involved because as that example so devastatingly illustrates, drugs victimize the innocent.”

Woodward called for more resources for law enforcement, and praised lawmakers for making progress on a bill that would require harsher penalties for people who commit the same crime repeatedly.

Woodward also called for more collaboration between governments, and more partnerships with the business, and non-profit community.

The call for unity comes at the same time as her proposal to create a regional homelessness authority. She pointed to other successful collaborations, a mental health stabilization facility and the Trent homeless shelter, both of which have received funds from Spokane County.

“Our experience tells us that the best time in our cities history share a few key ingredients, big ideas that turn challenges into opportunities, critical community partnerships that work effectively across perceived boundaries and the will to get it done,” she said.

Woodward said a regional homeless authority could help the area move people into housing faster and make the entire system more efficient.

Spokane Valley and Spokane County, the two other governments that would need to sign on to make the authority possible, are still in negotiations with the city of Spokane.

Rebecca White is a 2018 graduate of Edward R Murrow College of Communication at Washington State University. She's been a reporter at Spokane Public Radio since February 2021. She got her start interning at her hometown paper The Dayton Chronicle and previously covered county government at The Spokesman-Review.