Ex-chief justice joins police use of force panel
A recently retired state Supreme Court justice has agreed to serve on a city commission examining how the Spokane Police Department uses force.
The membership of the city’s Use of Force Commission, which was created last year to review the city’s handling of the police confrontation that resulted in the death of Otto Zehm in 2006, was announced by City Council President Ben Stuckart at Monday’s council meeting. The council is set to confirm the membership next week.
The five-member board will include Gerry Alexander, who retired last year as the chief justice of the Washington State Supreme Court.
Former Mayor Mary Verner began to form the commission last year. Mayor David Condon endorsed the commission and supported Verner’s choice of former Gonzaga Law School Dean Earl Martin to lead it.
Martin, who is Gonzaga University’s executive vice president, said the commission is no longer singularly focused on how the city handled the Zehm confrontation and the legal issues surrounding it. The commission will also review police procedures and training and civilian police oversight, he said.
He added that the commission may not be able to address some issues relating to the Zehm case because of ongoing litigation.
“It’s true that what we’re going to do has evolved,” Martin said. “The issue is bigger than one individual case.”
But he added, “What happened in the Zehm case is going to be an important component of our work.”
Martin and the commission’s vice chairman, attorney Bill Hyslop, previously had been announced as members. Hyslop served as the U.S. attorney for Eastern Washington from 1991 to 1993 after he was appointed to the position by President George H.W. Bush.
The other two members whose names were made public on Monday are Ivan Bush, Spokane Public Schools’ equal opportunity officer, and Susan Hammond, director of outpatient and psychiatric services for Spokane Mental Health.
Martin worked with Hyslop and the Verner and Condon administrations to pick the rest of the commission. Martin said he selected Alexander because of his vast legal experience.
Condon said earlier this month that he hopes the commission concludes its review by June.