Police Use of Force Progress Report an Improvement

By Paige Browning

Spokane’s mayor and police chief have presented their one year update to the Use of Force Commission. The commission set 26 tangible recommendations for the department, and Thursday's meeting was the second of three requested updates.
 
This was the city’s opportunity to give a report card on itself, and in doing so the mayor and police chief touted police culture changes, department-wide trainings, and new programs like a youth basketball league. The commission members shared general approval of how the department has changed since the use of force review began, but the commission did have questions. For example, member William Hyslop asked whether negotiations for the next police contract will be more transparent.
 
Hyslop: “Is the guild, and the other bargaining units, are they well aware that we very much encourage and have recommended greater transparency and openness to the extent that that’s capable? ‘Yes, absolutely’.”
 
The latter voice was Erin Jacobson, the city’s assistant attorney. Members were also curious about why it was difficult to give the police ombudsman independent investigative authority, a process that took about two years in negotiations. Activist and journalist Tim Connor has been an outward critic of the city’s ombudsman policy, but even he recognized improvement.
 
Connor: “The ombudsman ordinance was a fiasco, and really dishonored the voters’ will a year ago in proposition one. At the same time I think we can point to and celebrate many of the improvements that have been made.”
 
He’s particularly pleased with the crisis intervention training that all officers are required to undergo. In all, the police department reports it has completed or is working on all recommendations. The exception is officer body cameras. The department doesn’t have them in hand, but has placed an order for them.
This was the city’s one year update. The first report was presented last August, and the next will happen a year from now.
 
The commission was created at the request of Mayor David Condon, provoked by the Otto Zehm police case.
 
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