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Something smells bad – besides the protesters

Tue., July 17, 2007, midnight

I have reached that stage in my career where I avoid city committee meetings like the pox.

These functions are beyond boring. They are, in pharmaceutical terms, the Ambien of governmental gatherings.

But on Monday I made an exception and attended my first Spokane Public Safety Committee meeting.

That’s because I learned Police Chief Anne Kirkpatrick would be going over the officer reports on the Fourth of July bust of 17 anarchist protesters at Riverfront Park.

Adding to my interest was the appearance of some actual anarchists at the meeting. Namely Zach St. John, the 18-year-old charged with a felony for allegedly attempting to choke a cop during the hubbub.

Note to anarchists – I know you’re all punk rock and badass. But would it kill you to use deodorant? You reek worse than a herd of water buffalo. Really, dudes, a morning dab of Mitchum won’t mean you’ve sold out to The Man.

So I went to the conference room on the fifth floor of City Hall hoping for the best.

Just as I suspected, however, Kirkpatrick spoke last.

That meant sitting in a stuffy room full of cops and smelly anarchists and firefighters and smelly reporters and elected officials and trying to stay awake while officials droned on and on through a meaningful agenda that would tranquilize a charging crack addict.

For example: Monday’s meeting featured discussions about the minutia of a cabaret ordinance, buying new police cars and a warning from Spokane Fire Chief Bobby Williams that all this hot and dry weather has created a high fire danger.

Of course there’s a high fire danger, chief. It’s SUMMER!

Also on the agenda was a progress report on installing Photo Red, the system of spy cameras used to catch red light runners.

Photo Red is not to be confused with that security guard who was recently canned for using a spy camera outside the federal building to peep on the intimate lives of rich downtown condo dwellers.

That system is called “Photo Bed.”

Dozing off is a dangerous thing to do at a Public Safety Committee meeting. It can really influence a reporter’s coverage.

I was in the pre-snore stages when I snapped to attention after Mary Verner, City Council member and mayoral candidate, announced that she was having Councilman Brad Stark replaced.

After I shook my head to clear the cobwebs I realized Verner had actually said something about replacing one of Stark’s proposals.

Bummer. For a second there I was riding on the Mary for Mayor train.

Finally, it was Kirkpatrick’s turn to speak.

Going over the police reports, she gave the room an articulate, logical and eloquent mini-lecture on the limits of free speech, what constitutes “fighting talk” and the criteria that must exist for police to act and apply force.

“If there was no crime, we have no authority or power to make arrests,” she said.

Oh, Anne …

You are an honest and forthright leader. But I tried to warn you what kind of a spider’s nest you were getting yourself into.

Remember last September when you took your oath of office? The warning signs were standing right next to you. You know: those mysterious bruises that were all over Deputy Mayor Jack Lynch’s mug.

Bicycle accident, my ass.

Anyway, it’s true I wasn’t there to witness what happened near the Clocktower on the Fourth of July.

But scrawny St. John looks about as much like a cop-choker as I look like a lingerie model.

And the current video evidence? It ain’t showing that felonious assault.

Maybe it’s my imagination. But I’m starting to get a queasy feeling about what might have actually happened on that Independence Day in the park and it’s not looking good for the SPD.

Run, Anne, run.

Flee Weirdsville while you can.

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