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Sirens & Gavels

Posts tagged: Scott Stephens

Playing the Ozzie card

A chosen tactic of outgoing leaders in the Spokane Police Department: talk highly about the sheriff’s plan for regionalizing police forces.

Documents recently released from last December’s investigation into reports that former Assistant Police Chief Scott Stephens had threatened to go “postal” after hearing of his impending demotion contain a line from a “confidante and friend” of Stephens describing the tactic.

In her account of Stephens’ behavior the day he’s alleged to have made the threats, Officer Jennifer DeRuwe said Stephens told her he “wanted to talk to Sheriff Knezovich about becoming his undersheriff. [Stephens] said he would push the sheriff for a regional agency and be a part of that team. (This was very similar to previous Chief Kirkpatrick’s ‘threats’ when she was leaving her position a year ago.)”

Sheriff Ozzie Knezovich, however, said it's news to him.

“I never had those conversations,” Knezovich said Thursday. “I feel honored that they felt that way, that they wouldn’t mind working for me. But I didn’t talk to them.”

For her part, former Chief Anne Kirkpatrick said in an email Thursday that as the department continued to lose credibility with the public over various misbehavior, she told officers that “if they did not start taking control of themselves … then a good argument could be made for the Sheriff's Office to take over the police department and become a regionalized force under the Sheriff and I would advocate for it.”

Kirkpatrick, now working as the chief deputy sheriff in King County, said she assumed this potential advocacy for regionalization “is the ‘threat’ Officer DeRuwe is referencing.”

Chief OKs probe into alleged misconduct

Spokane County Jail inmate Justin Anest is pictured in 2006. He filed a federal civil rights lawsuit for a 2004 beating in the county jail. He claims to have been beaten again over the weekend in September 2006. The lawsuit was dismissed. Anest filed the complant that led to the dispute between the ombdusman and interim police chief. (SRarchives)

A disagreement between the interim Spokane police chief and the ombudsman about how a police misconduct allegation should be investigated has been resolved after witnesses came forward with new information.

A meeting scheduled last Friday between Interim Chief Scott Stephens, Ombudsman Tim Burns and Mayor David Condon never happened because Stephens informed Condon of his intention to investigate the accusation that police bruised a woman’s arms while handcuffing her at her home in early April.

Read the rest of my story here, which includes comment from the complanient, Justin Anest, and information on his background.

Guild using cameras as bargaining chip

If city leaders want body cameras to become a standard part of the Spokane Police Department uniform, they’ll have to first work through what the city’s top cop says could be the key hindrance: Spokane police officers.

The Spokane Police Guild is using the city’s proposal as a key bargaining chip in their latest contract negotiations, which recently began, Interim Chief Scott Stephens told the city’s Public Safety Committee this week.

Read the rest of my story here.

Past coverage:

March 21: Law agencies see benefit of cameras

SPD ombudsman dispute going to mayor

A disagreement between the interim Spokane police chief and the police ombudsman about the handling of a recent complaint is getting the mayor’s attention.

 Ombudsman Tim Burns is asking Mayor David Condon to force the Spokane Police Department to investigate a complaint that arose when officers responded to a report of possible domestic violence at a home in the city.

Read the rest of my story here.

A look at Spokane police use of force

To understand why the Spokane Police Department’s use-of-force training is under a microscope, consider this disconnect: Although the state’s top police trainer concluded that the fatal 2006 confrontation with unarmed janitor Otto Zehm was indefensible, the department’s own instructors and the city’s legal advisers have insisted that Spokane police officers were justified and handled the encounter appropriately.

 Here is how Spokane police Officer Terry Preuninger, a department training instructor (pictured), defended Officer Karl F. Thompson Jr.’s decision to beat and shock the retreating Zehm: “If the officer believes that they were in danger, then that use of force would be authorized,” Preuninger told a federal jury in October, adding that there doesn’t have to be a “factual basis” for the officer’s fear of harm.

Read the rest of the story here.

Also check out this profile on new interim police chief Scott Stephens.

Stephens named interim police chief

(Top) Scott Stephens takes questions after Mayor David Condon names him the interim police chief at a press conference Tuesday. (Bottom right) Former Spokane police Chief Roger Bragdon, right, and Lt. Joe Walker, center, listen during a press conference where Condon, far left, appointed Stephens. (SRphotos/Christopher Anderson)

A 26-year veteran of the Spokane Police Department will lead the troubled agency, at least for the next few months.

On his first business day as Spokane’s mayor, David Condon appointed Major Scott Stephens interim police chief, and announced plans to review the department’s use-of-force policies and training.

Stephens replaces Chief Anne Kirkpatrick, who retired effective Monday, at a time of low morale and deep division within the department.

Read the rest of Jon Brunt's story here.

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