Police forum attracts big crowd, ideas

SANDPOINT — If residents attending Wednesday’s forum had their way, there would be nothing interim about Corey Coon’s status as police chief.

A roundtable discussion regarding the future of the Sandpoint Police Department attracted a large crowd Wednesday afternoon as residents turned out to offer suggestions and feedback to Coon personally. The meeting was defined by an atmosphere of civility, and everyone who offered an opinion spoke in favor of Coon’s performance in the past few months.

“I think that Corey will make a great police chief when he is appointed to the job,” Parks and Recreation Director Kim Woodruff.

Residents agreed that they wanted to see a change in police culture and perception. However, many followed up by noting that they believed Coon is setting the department on that path, adding they had seen several improvements in the past few months.

More specifically, attendees wanted to see a return to the type of police force that would be available to assist residents when necessary. For example, rather than waiting for an individual to walk from a bar to their a car and then busting him or her, people suggested that the police proactively make sure residents were capable of driving and offer a ride home if necessary. Meeting attendees identified that kind of consideration as distinctly small town-style law enforcement. Coon proved receptive to those suggestions.

Other individuals recommended that the police department place a lower priority on marijuana busts, especially with Washington having legalized the substance. Officers with bilingual skills could be another asset to the force, others observed.

According to Coon, he had already implemented some philosophical shifts in the department, like reinstating officer discretion to handle a situation as he or she sees fit.

“I want to thank you for the discretionary policy, having been a recipient of it recently,” Woodruff said.

On a personal level, Coon pledged to travel to Virginia for advanced FBI training. He will also go back to school and earn his master’s degree if he receives the job on a permanent basis.

In a more abstract sense, Coon said he wants to restore a sense in the community that the police department was an ally and not an antagonist. He recalled one occasion when a mom caught her son smoking marijuana and felt comfortable enough to bring him into the department for a conversation on the possible consequences.

“If we don’t have that trust, we’re not going to get those people calling us up like that,” Coon said.

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