Posts tagged: use of force
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.
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.
Also check out this profile on new interim police chief Scott Stephens.
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.
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.
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.