Community Indicators Initiative e-Newsletter
  Winter 2013
Black, Native American Adults More Likely to Be Arrested in Spokane
Black and Native American adults in Spokane are much more likely to be arrested than their white or Asian counterparts. The arrest rate for black adults in 2012 was about six times that of whites, and the rate for Native Americans was five times that of whites, according to indicator 8.20.

This indicator correlates with information found in indicator 1.6 - Non-White population by race. These two Spokane indicators tell an interesting story. For example, in 2012, African American and Native American people made up 1.8 and 1.5 percent of Spokane's population, respectively. However, African American adults made up 25.8 percent of those arrested that year, and Native Americans made up 21.5 percent of the arrested population in 2012.

According to statistician Kellie Lapczynski of the Washington Association for Sheriffs and Police Chiefs, the statistics are compiled based only on arrest.

"When an agency records that someone is arrested, that doesn't mean they've been physically booked into jail," Lapczynski said, explaining why arrest numbers might look different than numbers of people incarcerated.

For example, someone who is arrested for a minor offense might be given a citation to appear in court, or spend only a night in jail, rather staying in prison for a longer period of time. Both of these count as arrests, but may be counted differently than numbers of people who are imprisoned or jailed on long-term sentences, Lapczynski said. Still, the numbers of minorities arrested compared with their population figures are unbalanced.

The Spokane police department (SPD) is currently working with a data expert to research police/community member interactions and race, and develop a data collection tool for future department use, said Monique Cotton, communication director for the SPD. The department plans to implement new policies and training based on the results of the research, possibly some time in 2014.

Tommy Williams, founder of Operation Healthy Family, a local nonprofit that works with youth and schools, thinks a large part of the problem with the unbalanced crime and arrest statistics lie with the foster care system and youth that age out of it.
Some kids in these programs exhibit bad behavior, and parents or foster parents often kick them out of their homes onto the streets, Williams said. With nowhere else to go, the kids often form "street families" and can sometimes get into more trouble than before. Crime rates tend to go up, and programs targeted at these kids aren't what they're looking for.

"There aren't any programs that really speak to them at that level," Williams said. "We expect kids to conform to our standards and we don't try to speak to them."

Williams, who also works for Child Protective Services, feels there is a disconnect between the existing social services that exist to help at-risk youth and populations, and thatís part of the problem. The agencies don't communicate to each other, he said, and duplication of services means time and money is wasted that could be going to help people in need. Bottom line - the existing services aren't doing enough to help people who need them, especially foster kids, and as a result, many of those kids tend to slip through the cracks and don't get help, he said. They often turn to crime or street families to survive.

Operation Healthy Family and others Williams works with in the Spokane community believe awareness and prevention are the most important tools to turn the tide in the situation.

"If our community is not aware of what's going on, pretty soon we will not be able to catch up to our crime rate and reverse it," Williams said.

He believes sustainable, evidence-based programs can help, and has already participated in several. This summer, Williams worked with the Spokane Police Department to put on SPYAL, Spokane Police Youth Athletic League, where children from East Central Neighborhood received free basketball gear and played in a league in exchange for time painting over graffiti. Police officers helped coach the kids and served as mentors. Williams also facilitates anti-bullying projects through local schools and is starting a disc-golf project to raise money for OHF.