December 2, 1997 in City

Tribe Seeks New Investigation Of State Troopers Spokane Tribe Claims Racism In Writing Drunk Driving Tickets

By The Spokesman-Review

The Spokane Tribe of Indians is renewing its request for a federal investigation of two Washington State Patrol troopers.

Trooper David Fenn received a disciplinary transfer from Colville to Spokane after writing a record number of drunken driving tickets on and near the Spokane Indian Reservation.

His supervisor, Sgt. David McMillan, was pulled from his assignment in Colville and temporarily transferred to Bremerton.

State Patrol Chief Annette Sandberg and other senior commanders ordered the transfers after the Spokane Tribe accused Fenn of racism and civil rights violations by targeting tribal members for DWI tickets.

An internal investigation showed that Native Americans accounted for one of every five drunken driving arrests made by Fenn.

But the investigation, reviewed by U.S. Department of Justice prosecutors, didn’t document any civil rights violations.

Both troopers filed appeals and disciplinary action against them was largely rescinded. McMillan was reassigned to Colville after he agreed to give up four vacation days. Fenn is still appealing a letter in his file that says his transfer was disciplinary.

The Spokesman-Review repeatedly asked Spokane Tribe officials for comment before it published a story about the investigation in November.

None of the tribal officials returned telephone calls. Their comments were obtained from the patrol’s internal investigation.

On Monday, the Spokane Tribe called a press conference where vice chairman Jim SiJohn renewed the charge of racism and a request for a federal investigation of the State Patrol.

The tribe also issued a three-page statement that said the newspaper performed a “disservice to the community” by publishing the story about the trooper investigation.

The tribe’s statement, issued by SiJohn, said Fenn was disciplined after he admitted falsifying reports and ignoring direct orders.

Neither of those findings are in a voluminous internal affairs report compiled by State Patrol investigators and reviewed by the Justice Department.

“Spokane tribal officials twice met with Fenn’s superiors after reports that (he) was ignoring the law by issuing civil citations on Tribal roads within the Spokane Indian Reservation,” the tribe’s statement said.

“The investigation revealed that the officers believed that they know more about the law than the federal courts and their superiors, so they embarked on their own,” the statement continued.

“That is why they were to be disciplined.”

Fenn called the tribe’s allegations “outright falsehoods.”

“If the department thought there were problems with my reports, I would have been investigated and fired if that was true,” Fenn said Monday.

The tribe’s statement also said the tribe “actively and aggressively patrols the reservation roads for drunk drivers.”

“This government does not tolerate or condone drunk driving,” SiJohn said.

, DataTimes ILLUSTRATION: Photo; Graphic: Drunken driving arrests

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