July 22, 2010 in City

Police supervisors criticize news media

Recent stories ‘slanted,’ inaccurate, letter says
The Spokesman-Review
 
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Background and the latest updates

An association of Spokane police supervisors is speaking out about perceived bias and negative press coverage of Spokane officers.

Released to Spokane media and city officials Wednesday, a letter – written by the Spokane Police Lieutenants and Captains Association to commissioned officers on the force – states that “The time has come to tell the citizens of Spokane in plain language that their police department is a good one.”

“This isn’t us patting ourselves on the back; this is just saying these guys are doing a good job,” said Lt. Joe Walker, vice president of the association.

In light of recent and ongoing news coverage about Spokane police officers and their actions, the 13-member association decided a response was necessary.

The letter references two articles published last month in Spokane newspapers: one June 27 in The Spokesman-Review, written by Bill Morlin, and one June 29 in the Pacific Northwest Inlander, written by Nicholas Deshais.

The association says the two articles – which both questioned and documented the department’s use of force as examples of why city leaders need to expand the investigative powers of police ombudsman Tim Burns – were “replete with inaccuracies, omissions and slanted perspective.”

“As a result, we have come to the realization that allowing such allegations to go unchallenged in the public forum gives the community the impression that they are accurate,” the letter states.

“You do not have truth until you have facts in context,” Chief Anne Kirkpatrick wrote in an e-mail response to the letter while on vacation this week. “I support the unified voice of the leadership of this department.”

The letter was also written as a show of support for patrol officers who put themselves in harm’s way every day, Walker said.

“Reading negative things day in and day out wears on people; we wanted to let them know … we support them,” Walker said.

Police officials, City Attorney Rocky Treppiedi, and Spokane County Sheriff Ozzie Knezovich are responding to Deshais’ article with a list of inaccuracies that need to be addressed, said Jennifer DeRuwe, police spokeswoman.

However, no inaccuracies were reported to The Spokesman-Review pertaining to its story.

DeRuwe said many on the force believe if they were to call The Spokesman-Review, their concerns would be ignored because of a strained relationship between the department and the paper.

Spokesman-Review Editor Gary Graham said the paper regularly publishes corrections when inaccuracies are made known.

“Any public agency or public information officer surely knows by now that it’s incumbent upon them to help us correct the record when necessary,” Graham said. “To suggest that we simply ignore complaints is absurd.”

Walker said the association is not responsible for correcting inaccurate news coverage: that was not the point of the letter.

“We just got to talking and said, ‘You know, maybe it’s time to write a letter and let everybody know that there’s other factors and things that play into what officers are faced with every day,’ ” Walker said. “There’s a vocal group out there that thinks that we should be robots. But we’re people just like everybody else.”

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