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Sirens & Gavels

Posts tagged: use of force

Spokane Police body cameras demonstrated for media

The Spokane Police Department ran several members of the media through its VirTra virtual training system Friday to demonstrate the fidelity of its chest-mounted cameras currently in use by 17 officers in a pilot program.

The video below was captured by a camera worn by this reporter while completing one of several use-of-force training scenarios at the Spokane police training facility.

In the clip, four teenagers are playing with airsoft weapons when a fifth approaches, armed with a real gun, and fires on officers. The scenario is interactive and responds to voice commands from the participant.

Training instructors used the video to illustrate the imperfections of the technology.

“What these video cameras are recording, and what you're going to see, is still not what the officer sees, and what he feels, and what he hears, and what he's experiencing while he's at the scene,” Lt. Kevin King said to assembled media Friday. “It's very different.”

Police said they've stitched pockets into their jumpsuits to keep the cameras steady during lateral movement.

The body cameras are always filming. When they are switched on, 30 seconds of video prior to the camera's activation is recorded. Sound capturing begins immediately after the camera is turned on. Once the camera is on, it beeps every two minutes to alert the officer filming is taking place.

Sound begins 30 seconds into the above video. Technical issues delay the beginning of the training video, which starts around 2:20.

It should be noted: YouTube asked if I wanted to stabilize the video before uploading it because it's shaky.

WSU professor, Spokane Police featured in CNN segment on crisis intervention research

A Washington State University professor of criminal justice and the Spokane Police Department have been featured on CNN for their collaboration on research into the physical and emotional responses of law enforcement in crisis situations.

As part of its “AC360” program hosted by Anderson Cooper, reporter Gary Tuchman visited a police confrontations lab run by students at WSU Spokane. Volunteers, including members of the Spokane Police Department, are placed in a virtual reality situation involving dramatizations of real-life confrontations, and their heart rate, brain waves and other vital signs are monitored as they make decisions about use of force.

You can watch the segment in its entirety below:



Professor Bryan Vila says the experiments are designed to determine the effect of training on decisions to use force in real-time.

“We still don't know if there's a connection between the training we give police officers and their performance in a combat situation,” Vila says in the clip.

The CNN report was filed as part of its coverage into the shooting death of an unarmed teenager in the St. Louis suburb of Ferguson, Missouri. Spokane police highlight their involvement in the project as part of their ongoing efforts to train officers in crisis intervention, part of a settlement reached with the department in the wake of the death of Otto Zehm at the hands of former Spokane police officer Karl Thompson in 2006. Police have also turned to the classroom to practice and evaluate their techniques of crisis de-escalation.

Use of force panel holds 1st meeting

The interim Spokane police chief and a Gonzaga University Law School professor were among the presenters Wednesday at the first meeting of Spokane's commission on police use of force.

Jason Gillmer, civil liberties expert, described the need for officers to be held to an “objective standard” regarding conduct instead of relying only on what the individual officer perceived at the time.

“This objective standard does not mean that an officer cannot make a mistake, but the mistake must be one that a reasonable officer could have made,” Gillmer said.

Interim Police Chief Scott Stephens described the department's mission and goals and answered questions about training

The meeting began with a  moment of silence for Otto Zehm, who died in 2006 after an encounter with Spokane police officers. It ended with comments from citizens, including the family of James Rogers, who was shot to death by police last September amid reports that he was armed and suicidal.

The commission, which was formed by Mayor David Condon, plans to finish reviewing Spokane Police Department policies by June.

Past coverage:

Jan. 25: Ex-chief justice joins use of force panel

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.

Ex-justice to serve on Zehm committee

Gerry Alexander, who retired last year as the chief justice of the Washington State Supreme Court, will serve on the city's Use of Force Commission.

The commission was created last year by former Mayor Mary Verner to review the city's handling of the police confrontation that resulted in the death of Otto Zehm in 2006.

Read more at the Spin Control blog. 

Police use-of-force case leaves questions

A Spokane man's arrest last July on suspicion of reckless driving, resisting arrest and driving with a suspended license has led to a disagreement between the Spokane Police Department and police Ombudsman Tim Burns, who has refused to certify the department’s internal investigation into a witness’s complaint of excessive force used against the suspect.

Burns questions an administrative review panel’s recommendation to exonerate the two accused officers. But police Chief Anne Kirkpatrick, who acted on the recommendation, said Burns doesn’t have the legal authority to make such a claim because his oversight is limited to internal investigations, not the later administrative review panels made up of police leaders.

“I don’t look at it as a substantive issue. To me, it’s just a legal question,” Kirkpatrick said. “What is Tim Burns’ authority and is the (panel) part of the investigation?”

Burns, who started work as the city’s first police ombudsman in August 2009, disagrees.

“My position is, If not me, then who?” he said.

Read my story here.
  

Trial begins over deputy‚Äôs use of Taser

A Spokane County Sheriff’s detective who has been the subject of a number of use-of-force complaints appeared in court Tuesday as a civil trial began by a man who claimed that he was unnecessarily shocked by a Taser during a traffic stop.

Daniel B. Strange, 41, (pictured above) filed a $1.5 million excessive force lawsuit against Spokane County in 2006 after a traffic stop on Jan. 22 of that year in which Deputy Jeff Welton shot Strange with a Taser during a traffic stop in Spokane Valley.

Read Tom Clouse's story here.

Past coverage:

Dec. 6, 2006: Lawsuit seeks $1.5 million for use of Taser

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