October 5, 2006 in City

Review of Zehm probe on hold

By The Spokesman-Review
 
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Background and the latest updates

The independent review ordered by Spokane Mayor Dennis Hession of Otto Zehm’s death will have to wait, too.

A hired consultant told Hession on Wednesday he won’t review the Police Department’s handling of the Zehm case until the various criminal investigations and an internal affairs probe are complete, and after county Prosecutor Steve Tucker decides whether to file charges against any of the officers involved. Tucker announced the same day that he’s waiting for the FBI and the U.S. attorney’s office to finish their investigation before deciding whether to clear the officers of any wrongdoing.

The delay marks a new setback for the mayor, who promised swift action designed to restore faith in the Police Department when announcing his decision to order independent outside reviews, a process Hession said in August would take about six weeks.

Mike Worley of Kentucky-based Police Practices Consulting, LLC, was hired by the city in August to review the police investigations into the death of the 36-year-old mentally ill man, and the handling of evidence in a case where on-duty Spokane firefighter Daniel Ross had sex with a 16-year-old girl and took pictures of the act. Police cleared Ross of any criminal wrongdoing and suggested he delete illicit photos of the girl, which he did.

Until the federal and departmental investigations are complete, Worley said, it would be impossible for him to fully evaluate the department’s handling of the Zehm case.

But he is moving forward on the firefighter-sex case.

“He will be reporting his recommendations regarding Daniel Ross fairly soon, possibly within a month, but not the Otto Zehm case,” Hession said.

Worley was also asked to evaluate Spokane’s Citizen Review Commission as a police oversight group. Hession expected recommendations regarding the commission to be ready in about a month.

The Washington Association of Sheriffs and Police Chiefs, referred to by law enforcement as WASPC, contracted with the city about the same time as Worley to perform a top-down administrative review of the Police Department.

Both examinations were ordered by Hession in July.

The independent consultant and WASPC executives have been in Spokane this week working on their individual reviews, officials said. WASPC will complete its on-site visit today. The group intends to send its report to Spokane within 60 days, Hession said.

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