Spokane Police Gives Use of Force Progress Report

The Spokane Police Department has reached the six month mark since it got a hefty list of recommendations from the Use of Force Commission. Wednesday the department gave a progress report on each of the 26 recommended items.
Spokane Police staff gave out hefty binders of their progress report to the Use of Force Commission members. Photo by Paige Browning.The presentation went pretty smoothly for Chief Straub and the Spokane Police Department. Straub outlined changes they made in the first six months, including moving forward with purchasing body cameras for officers, writing a new mission statement, and quite a bit of training on topics like crisis intervention, and race and diversity.

Straub says the changes have actually improved the way some officers engage with citizens.
Straub: “The officers are starting to see that maybe taking that extra minute or two to be thoughtful in the conversation, to be respectful, that that’s having a return investment for them that people are more receptive to engaging with the officers. I think that will have a direct correlation to the use of force incidents.”

Photo: Spokane Police staff gave out hefty binders of their progress report to the Use of Force Commission members. Photo by Paige Browning.
The SPD was praised for improvements by commission chair Earl Martin, and by Tim Connor with the Center for Justice. His organization represented the family of Otto Zehm after Zehm’s death..
But Martin and Connor saw a big gap in the report: no concrete update to citizen oversight. In February voters approved a proposition to give the police ombudsman independent investigative authority. But the city has not granted that authority, pending resolution of the police guild contract.
Mayor Condon says the guild and police department have agreed to only speak through a mediator during this negotiation cycle. In other words, transparency will have to wait until next cycle.
Connor is worried the police ombudsman’s role and authority is being discussed in negotiations.
Connor: “Our view is that the elements of prop one have no business being negotiated. Under state law there are some things that bargaining is mandatory for, and those things are working conditions, and there are things that are within the city’s managerial discretion. And this has all been resolved in case law.”
Connor says there is no firm timeline for when the guild contract will be resolved.
The Use of Force Commission will review progress on their recommendations again after 12 months, then 24 months.
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