Spokane Police Guild officials say the blame for the botched firing of a detective lies with officials no longer in city government.
The Spokane City Council on Monday approved a $350,000 mediated settlement with Detective Jeff Harvey that stipulates he won’t be disciplined for the alleged incident that led to his termination and provides him an apology for the way he was treated.
Guild President Ernie Wuthrich, in a letter to the media released after the council vote Monday night, said Harvey was fired by then-police Chief Anne Kirkpatrick and former Mayor Mary Verner in retribution for his work as the police union’s vice president.
“It is unfortunate that Mary Verner and Anne Kirkpatrick were not personally required to pay the money awarded to Detective Harvey since they are the people that are responsible for his wrongful termination,” Wuthrich said.
Kirkpatrick and former City Administrator Ted Danek, who signed Harvey’s termination letter, declined to comment on the guild’s accusation. Attempts made to reach Verner were not immediately successful.
Harvey was fired after he was charged with obstruction of justice following a January 2011 encounter with a state Fish and Wildlife officer. However, a jury deadlocked over the misdemeanor obstruction charge that September, voting 5-1 to acquit Harvey, and the county prosecutor’s office opted not to retry the case.
The police panel that conducted the internal affairs investigation into the incident determined that Harvey obstructed the officer and recommended that he be suspended.
Harvey has denied he did anything wrong when he was pulled over by the game officer, who suspected that Harvey may have violated a shooting curfew.
In the lawsuit against the city, Harvey’s attorney, Bob Dunn, said the Fish and Wildlife officer was hostile and “falsely accused” Harvey of hindering his investigation.
“The ensuing investigation was cursory and incomplete at best and was never intended to obtain” Harvey’s version of the facts or “uncover the truth,” Harvey’s lawsuit said.
Wuthrich’s letter notes that Spokane police Ombudsman Tim Burns had requested that Kirkpatrick delay the hearing that led to Harvey’s firing in July 2011.
Burns confirmed on Tuesday that he had met with Harvey and an attorney about the case and felt Harvey had legitimate concerns about the way the case was handled that warranted more investigation. Burns did, however, certify the internal affairs investigation as thorough, timely and fair.
Kirkpatrick responded that Burns did not have authority to make such a request, he said, and he didn’t pursue the issue.
Burns said the department had previously not started internal affairs investigations into officers charged with a crime until after criminal proceedings were complete.
“That’s certainly the chief’s prerogative, but it was different from past practice in my limited time here,” Burns said.
Wuthrich said the internal investigation should have waited until after the criminal case was completed.
“Detective Harvey was fired before his innocence could be proven in court,” Wuthrich said in his letter. “Whatever happened to the presumption of innocence?”
Burns said, however, that just because an officer is found innocent by a jury doesn’t mean that discipline shouldn’t be considered.
“We hold our officers to a higher accountability than the criminal law may deal with,” Burns said.
In Harvey’s 10-page termination letter, city leaders described what they labeled a “troubled work history,” including a 20-day suspension in 1987 after breaking a man’s arm and a 40-hour suspension in 1991 for calling in sick so he could go hunting.
Wuthrich said Harvey has proved to be an asset to the department and was recently “commended by his supervisors for being one of the top producing detectives in the bureau,” Wuthrich said.
“Members of the Spokane Police Guild are committed to providing efficient, effective, and unbiased law enforcement service to the citizens of Spokane,” Wuthrich said.