While we may not love a scapegoat, we certainly always look for one. This seems to be the case with former police Chief Anne Kirkpatrick.
As the former U.S. attorney for the Eastern District of Washington (2001 to 2010), it was my duty and honor to work with all of the sheriffs and chiefs of police in Eastern Washington. In that role, I had the opportunity to work closely with Kirkpatrick – in my view, they don’t come any better.
You will recall that Kirkpatrick was hired at a time when several high-profile police officer misconduct cases were ongoing. Not only did she inherit the Otto Zehm case, which was on the heels of the firehouse sex photo scandal, but she also walked into the Cpl. Dave Freitag matter and shortly thereafter the Shonto Pete shooting.
Then came the Jay Mehring complaint of domestic violence and the Robert Boothe matter involving two fellow officers who accused Boothe of kicking a handcuffed suspect. Topping all of these was the Brad Thoma DUI arrest, the Jeff Harvey matter, and don’t forget the Alan Edwards affair involving the misuse of law enforcement information, which occurred late on her watch but was appropriately handled by the current chief. A department in disarray? I guess you could say that!
In each of the above matters, as well as others not so visible, Kirkpatrick held her officers to the highest level of accountability. Isn’t that what the community wanted in a new police chief? In the Zehm matter, for example, Kirkpatrick cooperated with the FBI and U.S. attorney’s office in every way and upheld the highest level of honesty and integrity during that very difficult time. I wish the same could be said of several other city officials involved in the Zehm matter.
Spokane had a police chief who was courageous enough to stand up for what was right and in the best interests of the community. I am certain that she had legal counsel every step of the way, as well as the necessary checks and balances required by the city. Indeed, I am advised that no police officer can be suspended or terminated without approval at several levels within the city hierarchy.
In the final analysis, Kirkpatrick showed courage by taking a firm stand, in spite of the personal cost and risk that now results from being the target of several lawsuits, as well as personal attacks by not only the Police Guild but other uninformed members of the press and the community as well. Kirkpatrick was not bullied, nor should the city of Spokane or the community be intimidated.
The community should stand by its former chief of police, who only did what she was engaged to do. The city is now in the process of searching for a new chief of police whose primary mission will be to rebuild the trust that should exist between the community and our fine men and women in blue. What message should we send our prospective chief: that the community will stand behind you until it throws you under the bus? Who would sign up for such a potential risk?