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Obstruction trial for ex-police detective opens

Tue., Sept. 20, 2011, midnight

The obstruction of justice trial began Monday against embattled former Spokane police detective Jeff Harvey.

Harvey was fired this year after being charged with a gross misdemeanor following a confrontation with a state Department of Fish and Wildlife police officer who responded on Jan. 22 to a report of boys shooting after hunting hours on private land north of Spokane. Harvey, who was off-duty at the time, is accused of hindering the investigation, which involved his sons.

Defense attorney Rob Cossey asked wildlife officer Dave Spurbeck a series of pointed questions about why he did not put in his report that the tipster reporting the suspected hunting violation was in fact a personal friend.

“I’m concerned,” Cossey continued. “You are a law enforcement officer. You have an obligation to be fair and impartial. And you don’t think that would be important?”

“What I told them was accurate,” Spurbeck replied.

The jury trial before Whitman County District Judge Douglas Robinson, who was called in to preside because of potential conflicts involving Spokane County judges, is expected to conclude today.

Harvey, 46, was vice president of the Spokane Police Guild when police Chief Anne Kirkpatrick placed him on paid leave in February after she learned about the confrontation.

Spurbeck testified that he got a call that boys were shooting after hours near Deadman Creek north of Spokane and he went to investigate. He had the reporting caller, who is also a hunting buddy, get the license plate of the truck that picked up the boys; it was registered to Harvey.

Spurbeck didn’t know Harvey when he made the traffic stop a few miles from where the after-hours shooting occurred. Spurbeck said Harvey refused to allow him to approach his silver Dodge pickup to question the boys and at one point he had to put Harvey in a “goose neck” hold to keep him away from his truck, which contained several firearms.

“I told him he needed to stop obstructing or I would take him to jail,” Spurbeck said. “He brought out his wallet and it said Spokane police detective. I said, ‘You’ve got to be kidding me.’ I told him I couldn’t believe after all that had happened that he was a police officer.”

Spurbeck said he asked Harvey why he didn’t say something sooner, and he “said the way things are in the department right now, he would get into trouble for that.”

And he did. Kirkpatrick fired Harvey in July in part for the allegations from Spurbeck and from what she also described in a letter as a “troubled work history.”

The city’s letter documented other discipline and negative evaluations during Harvey’s years in the department. He was suspended for 20 days in 1987 after breaking a man’s arm; given an oral reprimand in 1989 after eight detention employees reported that Harvey and two fellow officers used excessive force against a 17-year-old boy; and suspended for 40 hours in 1991 for calling in sick so he could go hunting.

Within days after he was fired, Harvey and his civil attorney, Bob Dunn, filed a $10 million claim against the city for its handling of his case.

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