Two weeks into her job as Spokane’s top cop, police chief Anne Kirkpatrick is sending a case to the newly reappointed Citizens Review Commission – the first police case the group will have reviewed in more than a decade.
Kirkpatrick has asked the commission to review the Police Department’s handling of a June 4 incident in which an off-duty police lieutenant confronted a neighbor who held several teens at gunpoint, including two of the lieutenant’s own children. The neighbor suspected the teens of vandalizing property in the area.
A citizen complained this week that Lt. Judi Carl inappropriately influenced the police handling of the case, and that her actions led to an injustice, said Spokane police spokesman Cpl. Tom Lee. Kirkpatrick said she disagrees but wants to give the commission a chance to review it.
“I promised the citizens of Spokane that their Police Department would be open, transparent and accountable,” Kirkpatrick said in a prepared statement on Friday. “Today, I’m honoring that promise.”
Kirkpatrick has provided the citizens commission with a copy of an internal affairs investigation into the case. As a result of that, Carl was suspended for a day because she used vulgar language during the confrontation.
The chief is asking the commission to consider two questions: Was the investigation complete, thorough, and fair? And did the internal affairs investigation adequately address Carl’s involvement?
The gunman, Danny Joe Roske, told police that he believed the children were responsible for vandalism in his neighborhood, and that he saw them knocking over a newspaper box, according to court records.
Roske, 39, pleaded guilty earlier this month to four counts of intimidation with a dangerous weapon, a gross misdemeanor. Police had recommended Roske be charged with a more serious felony offense, second-degree assault.
The incident occurred in the 8600 block of North Pamela Drive shortly after midnight on June 4. The children, including Carl’s daughter and 15-year-old son, had gone out to toilet-paper a friend’s house. They, along with two other 13-year-old girls, were confronted by Roske.
The Citizens Review Commission’s chairman, the Rev. Lonnie Mitchell, said Kirkpatrick “told me she wanted her department to be transparent and didn’t want anything to jeopardize her integrity,” he said. “The police chief wants to make sure everything was handled in a just way.”
The commission will convene during the next two weeks, Mitchell said. “The first thing we’ll do is review the case, and call witnesses if needed. Then we’ll determine what course of action to take,” he said.
Meanwhile, Kirkpatrick has also decided to “explore other ways to improve transparency,” she said. The police chief is traveling to Boise this weekend for a weeklong conference about citizen oversight: the 12th annual National Association for Civilian Oversight of Law Enforcement conference, titled “Making Justice Visible.”
Making the decision to leave for a week after having been at the Police Department for only two weeks was a struggle for Spokane’s top cop, but she realized the importance.
“I have been pushed and pulled whether or not to go,” Kirkpatrick said. “It was very hard for me because I realize the value of being present here, and the value of this particular conference.
“It is a statement of putting my action to my words,” she said. “I said I would be transparent. I’m willing to work with these statements.”
During a Friday morning interview, Kirkpatrick spoke of changes that may be on the horizon for the department.
She’s met with every law enforcement unit, and has come to some conclusions about where there are more needs.
“First-line responders (patrol) and detectives, they are very stretched,” Kirkpatrick said. “The patrol division, they’re really down, especially on one particular shift and we need to address that. Detectives are also down. Their case loads are huge, and we have a human cry in the public about our property crimes.”
But change in those areas won’t happen immediately.
“I’m trying to look at our resources, and where we have our people,” Kirkpatrick said. “The first thing I’m trying to do is identify those stressors, and then I really have to look at some long-range planning before I start moving people around.”