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Spokane City Council unanimously approves Police Guild contract

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(The Center Square) – After an hour long public study session, the Spokane City Council adjourned to a closed door executive session to discuss “potential litigation and collective bargaining negotiations,” as Council President Breean Beggs put it.

Nearly 30 minutes later, council emerged from chambers with a solution to one of those two topics and commenced a special legislative session.

With no public comment scheduled, first to speak was recently appointed Interim City Administrator Garrett Jones, the former parks director.

“On behalf of the administration, I just wanted the council to recognize not only the commitment we have in our staff, but the commitment we have in our budget process for 2024,” said Jones, speaking of the weekly budget meetings the council has been holding with the city administration.

Councilman Zack Zappone was clearly expecting more from the administration.

“Thank you, Gary, I appreciate that. I was just wondering where’s the Mayor today while we’re dealing with this difficult topic?” asked Zappone.

“I cannot answer that question, councilmember. Sorry,” answered Jones before stepping away from the podium, after which the council discussed the collective bargaining agreement with the Spokane Police Guild.

Councilmember Michael Cathcart was first to comment on the contract.

“I don’t think there’s been a question of whether we would pass this,” said Cathcart. “The questions that we do have all the time are how do we pay for the things that we’re committing to.”

“Obviously, we have a lot of needs beyond this contract as well,” Cathcart added, before noting that many more tough decisions will need to be made in the coming year’s budget.

Beggs then invited president of the Spokane Police Guild, Detective Dave Duncan, up to comment prior to the vote.

“Getting us into contract in what, historically, is now going to be record time, is a credit to the city saying it supports its police. It gives us some hope, it gives us a path forward to start to recruit, and to remind people that this is the best police department in the state,” said Duncan.

With recent staffing and recruiting woes having the Spokane Police Department short 70 positions, as previously reported by The Center Square, this contract could be a partial solution to those problems.

Councilmember Betsy Wilkerson commented on the difficulties of the negotiation process, saying, “We need the best information that we can get to make those difficult decisions. It’s never been about us versus them. We just don’t want to set you up, or the city up, for this financial structure that we cannot sustain.”

After a lengthy comment by Beggs about the difficulty the city is going to be facing balancing its budget for not only the coming year, but the rest of 2023, the contract was approved unanimously in a 7-0 vote.

The full text of the contract, filed under OPR 2023-654, can be found on the city’s website.

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