An association of Spokane police supervisors is speaking out about perceived bias and negative press coverage of Spokane officers.
Released to Spokane media and city officials Wednesday, a letter – written by the Spokane Police Lieutenants and Captains Association to commissioned officers on the force – states that “The time has come to tell the citizens of Spokane in plain language that their police department is a good one.”
Read the rest of Sara Leaming's story here.
Read the entire letter, as well as The Inlander's response, by clicking the link below.
As leaders within the Spokane Police Department, our Association members have viewed the recent maligning of our officers with increasing dismay. We have heard numerous outcries of injustice in the City Council chambers by individuals whose hyperbole has gone virtually unchecked, until Chief Kirkpatrick herself corrected two of the more egregious examples during Council session. We have read the recent article by Bill Morlin in The Spokesman Review and another by Nicholas Deshais featured in The Inlander, both replete with inaccuracies, omissions and slanted perspective. As a result, we have come to the realization that allowing such allegations to go unchallenged in the public forum gives the community the impression that they are accurate. That is the reason for this letter. The time has come to tell the citizens of Spokane in plain language that their police department is a good one.
A fine example occurred during Hoopfest weekend. For those who are not aware of the event, there was a confrontation between rival gangs in Riverfront Park. This occurred near center court and the fountain, in an area heavily crowded with families and children. One of the gangmembers pulled a gun and fired shots. Civilians were injured. An off duty detective, unarmed and in the park with her children, witnessed the event. She closely followed the suspects as they fled the scene and pointed out the criminal with the gun to responding patrol officers. One such officer saw the shooter reaching into his pocket for the gun. He recognized that he was likely to be faced with a fatal encounter. However, he also recognized that the crowded civilian populace faced great risk should he fire his gun and miss. Instead, he took that danger onto himself by charging the suspect and grappling with him, even though that suspect had successfully drawn the gun from his pocket. The officer was eventually able to subdue the suspect after great risk to his own life.
Either or both of these officers could have taken the “easy” route. The detective could have fled the scene with her children and merely pointed out the general direction the suspects went to responding officers. The patrol officer was fully justified in using lethal force in the situation he faced and could have fired his duty weapon in response to the criminal actions of the suspect. But both officers made the more difficult, braver choice.
The actions of these two officers, while exemplary, serve as an example of the kind of police work that occurs on a daily basis in Spokane. It doesn’t happen by accident, and it happens in tense, uncertain and rapidly evolving situations in which split-second decisions must be made. The community of Spokane should know that men and women who serve you, the citizens of this city, are dedicated, professional, hardworking souls. They are proud to do the work they do and recognize the opportunity for the honor that it is.
Moreover, we lieutenants and captains are proud of them. Our final statement is one we make directly to those men and women of SPD, and it is this: while as leaders we stand in front of you and as fellow cops we stand beside you and in support of you, it is our most distinct honor to serve with you.
The Lieutenants and Captains Association
Inlander responds to allegations of bias
Nine days ago, the Spokane police chief, a city attorney, a city spokeswoman and the county sheriff came to Inlander offices to complain about our July 1 cover story, “Strong Arm of the Law,” which examined the issue of excessive force and transparency at local law enforcement agencies.
City Attorney Rocky Treppiedi said at the July 13 meeting there were numerous factual errors in the article and indicated he would provide a list of them. The Inlander is committed to publishing accurate information and correcting the record when appropriate, but to date, no list has been provided, despite repeated requests.
“I apologize. Rocky has been under several court-imposed deadlines on other cases,” city spokeswoman Marlene Feist wrote The Inlander on Tuesday. “He will surely be done this week, but I don't have any greater specificity at this point. Please know that this is a priority for us; we will get you something.”
Nevertheless, the Spokane Police Lieutenants and Captains Association issued a letter to officers and the media yesterday extolling the good work of police while complaining about a “slanted perspective” in the news media. The letter cites two stories: the July 1 Inlander article and a June 27 story in the Spokesman-Review, which also looked at the issue of excessive force.
“The time has come to tell the citizens of Spokane in plain language that their police department is a good one,” the letter reads.
The Inlander’s “Strong Arm of the Law” article examined the process by which local law enforcement agencies handle excessive force complaints. (Most internal investigations end without finding any officers at fault.)
The article also raised questions about why, in the case of the Spokane Police Department, the city keeps internal reports relating to those complaints secret unless the accused officer is found in the wrong — a policy out of step with procedures at law enforcement agencies across the state, including the Spokane County Sheriff’s Office.
After the article was published, Spokane Mayor Mary Verner said she planned to review the city’s records policies. “It’s time for us to take a look at this,” Verner told The Inlander. “It certainly is a priority for me. … Our city’s not adverse to ongoing reforms.”
City Councilman Bob Apple has been vocal on the issue and backed expanded powers for the Police Department’s civilian ombudsman. He blames the mayor for not addressing the lack of transparency earlier.
“The city views an open-records policy as a liability,” Apple says. “Every excuse has been given over the last few years by every mayor I’ve been under. … [The mayor’s] giving the same excuse as every other staffer at the city: ‘We don’t have the manpower. We don’t have the resources. Blah, blah, blah.’ If we need to redact info at the city, redact. We’re a very large city. We should know how to handle our business.”
Today, the Spokesman-Review published an article about the Spokane Police Lieutenants and Captains Association’s letter. Editor Gary Graham said in the article that the paper corrects inaccuracies when they’re made known.
“Any public agency or public information officer surely knows by now that it’s incumbent upon them to help us correct the record when necessary,” Graham was quoted as saying. “To suggest that we simply ignore complaints is absurd.”
Our own review of the 5,000-word report did reveal three mistakes:
- In a timeline of high-profile police incidents accompanying the story, we wrote about the shooting of Sidney McDermott in 1994. The item indicated that McDermott had been shot and killed by Officer Tracie Meidl. Meidl had shot at McDermott repeatedly, but missed him. It was Officer Marc Wheelwright, not Miedl, who fatally wounded McDermott.
- The timeline also reported on the 2007 shooting by Jay Olsen, the off-duty officer who shot Shonto Pete in the head. The item indicated that the city launched an internal investigation “soon after in response to widespread public outrage about [Olsen’s] acquittal.” It’s the city’s policy to investigate all excessive force complaints.
- The timeline also indicated Chad Ruff was a city officer, when in fact he is employed at the Sheriff’s Office. A second mention of Ruff, however, did correctly indicate he was a deputy, rather than a city police officer.
These corrections will be printed in the July 29 edition of The Inlander as well as on Inlander.com.
The “Strong Arm of the Law” article was published as part of an ongoing series, The Injustice Project, which is committed to exposing miscarriages of justice. Send tips and story ideas to firstname.lastname@example.org or call the news tip line at (509) 325-0634 ext. 264.