August 13, 1997 in City

Commission Votes To Pursue Brutality Case Complaint Against Officer To Be Sent To Public Safety Committee

By The Spokesman-Review
 

A brutality complaint against a Spokane police officer should be investigated further, a citizens panel decided Tuesday.

Deciding its first case, the Citizens Review Commission voted 4-1 to send Christopher Ostrander’s complaint to the city’s Public Safety Committee.

“This is the strongest action we can take,” said Commissioner Michael Holmes, a college instructor and former police officer. “It’s going on to the next level. It’s not being dropped.”

The Public Safety Committee, made up of three City Council members, will decide how to proceed with the complaint.

“It would have been really troubling if they had reached another decision,” said Ostrander, who lives in Davenport.

The 39-year-old organic vegetable farmer said he hopes the Public Safety Committee will launch an independent investigation into the incident. He also wants the officer involved to lose his job.

Ostrander claims the undercover detective, whose identity has been withheld, beat him without provocation after a Jan. 23 traffic stop in Airway Heights.

He said the officer didn’t show identification and began roughing him up without giving him a chance to answer questions.

Ostrander, who says he passively resisted what he thought was a bogus arrest, claims he suffered a debilitating shoulder injury in the incident.

The officer, assigned to the Spokane Regional Drug Task Force at the time, said Ostrander ran a red light, refused to cooperate with authorities, then resisted arrest.

Ostrander faces criminal charges of obstructing a public servant, failing to obey an officer and driving with a suspended license.

The officer and a county sheriff’s deputy followed Ostrander’s lilac-colored panel van to Airway Heights after spotting it near a suspected drug house in the Spokane Valley.

Ostrander says he was visiting the residence next door.

The farmer originally took his complaint to the Police Department’s internal affairs unit.

A group of police administrators determined the traffic stop was legitimate and the amount of force used by the officer justified.

The officer’s safety was at risk because Ostrander wouldn’t follow directions and was wearing a fanny pack that hadn’t been searched, according to the internal affairs probe.

Police Chief Terry Mangan stood by that finding Tuesday, saying Ostrander was uncooperative and combative.

Ostrander then took his case to the Citizens Review Commission.

Mayor Jack Geraghty appointed the commission earlier this year so people who aren’t satisfied with how the Police Department handles complaints against officers have a place to appeal.

Commission members held a hearing in the Ostrander case last month, then decided to review the entire case file before rendering their decision.

Commissioner Ben McInturff, a retired judge, said Tuesday he was persuaded to pass the case along because the accused officer declined to testify at the hearing. He was represented by Lt. Bob Van Leuven, the department’s liaison to the commission.

Only Commissioner Atara Clark, appointed to represent the Police Lieutenants and Captains Association, voted against forwarding the complaint.

“You didn’t cooperate,” Clark told Ostrander. “I can see how an officer in that situation could feel threatened.”

Recommendations from the commission or the Public Safety Committee are advisory only, Mangan said.

“They can’t change any disciplinary action that’s been taken. They can only say these are some things that need to be looked at in the future,” he said.

, DataTimes


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