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Local Law Enforcement Stretched Thin

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Resources are stretched so thin for both the Spokane Police Department and Spokane County Sheriff's Office that Sheriff Ozzie Knezovich says staffing levels are close to a public safety emergency level.

Sheriff Knezovich told KHQ there are not enough officers to cover all of the calls for service and with the events of the week, officers are working a lot of overtime.

"Our major crimes unit, some of those folks have not had a day off in almost a month and some of them have been running anywhere from 16 to 20 hour days," Sheriff Knezovich said.

The week started with a SWAT situation near the 600 block of South Arthur Street, at a home where bank robbery suspect Scott Ruziecki was taken into custody. From there, Spokane Police have had an officer involved shooting, a stabbing in downtown Spokane, and the beating death of 89-year-old Delbert Belton.

"Those type of weeks happen," Sheriff Knezovich said. "It really is cyclical, the problem is, it's becoming more and more the trend."

Then on Friday, both SWAT teams from the city and county were called in to deal with the events at Double Eagle Pawn.

"A lot of overtime went into this week," Sheriff Knezovich said. "With the events of today, we started calling in off duty officers to help fill, back fill for the void that was being made by the city's hostage situation."

While all of those events were happening, deputies still have other cases to deal with.

"The problem is, we're really not handling everything," Sheriff Knezovich said. "When we have major issues like this, we get tied up on those and there are cases that are not being worked right now."

Sheriff Knezovich says that although the city and county work well together when big incidents like Friday's standoff occur, the department is severely understaffed and Spokane does not have enough law enforcement officers on the streets.

"That means the deputies and officers are doing a lot of work and they're trying to keep our crime in check," Sheriff Knezovich said. "The problem is, there's just not enough of them to do the job and they're starting to burn out."

However, even if they are burnt out, there is no time to stop.

"When you have an incident like that there's no just shutting down, you have to keep moving forward," Sheriff Knezovich said.

Both the city and county are currently hiring. However, Sheriff Knezovich says it is time to look at staffing levels and add more money to the budget, so they can get to a point where they do not need to call in officers off duty to cover incidents like Friday's SWAT situation.

 

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