Arrow-right Camera


Doug Clark: Nicks’ exit is past due

Thu., Aug. 11, 2011

Give (Jim Nicks) the benefit of the doubt. Maybe the acting chief hadn’t bothered to carefully examine the evidence before running his mouth and handing Spokane a bill of goods.

“In that case Nicks is no liar – he’s just incompetent. Either way, the guy should go.”

– Clark column, July 16, 2006

Well, I finally have my answer to the above “A or B” choice on Nicks that I offered readers five years ago.

Nicks wasn’t inept when he tried to protect the thugs in blue who clubbed, shocked and hogtied Otto Zehm inside a Spokane quickie mart. The innocent and mentally ill janitor died two days after his violent encounter with Spokane police.

It was as I always suspected.

Nicks was fibbing more than that wayward chick in the old “Lyin’ Eyes” Eagles song.

The Otto Zehm case was a pure CYA deal from day one.

But that was then. The Spokane Police Department’s now-Assistant Chief Nicks is today crooning a different tune.

Zehm no longer was the malefactor who used his plastic diet soda bottle like a sword against poor Officer Karl Thompson Jr., states Nicks in newly filed court documents.

Furthermore, adds Nicks, Zehm was in full retreat mode when Thompson got in his face and went to work. The officer had been summoned to the convenience store after two young women wrongly reported Zehm as a possible thief.

And Thompson?

New and improved Nicks says Thompson had no good reason to beat down Zehm like a dog. Thompson’s use of his club violated the department’s “use of force policies.”

Will wonders never cease?

This is the most dramatic change of heart since St. Paul’s conversion on the Road to Damascus.

OK. I’m not a complete cynic. I believe there really are cases where people suddenly “see the light” and change for the better.

Trust me, folks. This ain’t one of them.

This flip-flop is all about the upcoming federal trial against Thompson for what he did to Zehm.

Nicks will likely be called to the stand for the prosecution.

Dude better tell things the right way.

Hell, if the feds will go after baseball pitching ace Roger Clemens for perjury, they won’t blink twice about nailing ol’ Nicks to the wall.

What happened to Zehm inside a Division Zip Trip on March 18, 2006, is one of the most disgraceful episodes in our community’s history.

I realize I’ve banged the bongos hard on this, handing out some 5,000 Otto buttons and singing songs about his death.

The point has always been simple:

Don’t forget.

There was a real danger of that happening back in the early days, when the local law and our city honchos were trying to sweep this travesty under the rug.

That won’t happen now, what with the trial and the Nicks memory reversal.

But citizens also need to remember how poorly some of our leaders responded in the wake of this man’s death.

Spokane County Prosecutor Steve Tucker lived up to his reputation as a complete do-nothing.

Mayor Mary Verner made perhaps her biggest blunder by automatically siding with the “see no evil” version of events.

“In my personal opinion,” said the mayor, “… I just don’t think that the behavior of the officer rose to criminal behavior.”

Really, Mary?


As long as the assistant chief is coming clean, perhaps he’ll take the advice I gave him in that aforementioned column five summers ago.

And that is to resign and never “darken our Public Safety Building again.”

Hey, I can dream, can’t I? 

Doug Clark is a columnist for The Spokesman-Review. He can be reached at (509) 459-5432 or by email at

There are 46 comments on this story »