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Condon asks Police Guild for contract changes

Spokane Mayor David Condon is heeding the advice of Spokane City Council members who have pushed him to reopen contract negotiations with the Spokane Police Guild.

The mayor and guild agreed to a tentative four-year labor contract last fall, but that deal was rejected by the City Council in November. It was nearly rejected a second time in December before the council opted to delay a vote until Feb. 3.

City officials confirmed this week that administrators have sent proposed changes to the proposed contract to the mediator working with the city and guild. Condon met in a private session with the City Council on Monday to talk about negotiations with the guild. City spokesman Brian Coddington said he could not provide details on the city’s most recent proposal.

Early this year, City Council President Ben Stuckart sent a letter to Condon urging him to reopen negotiations to spare the council from rejecting the deal again.

Guild using cameras as bargaining chip

If city leaders want body cameras to become a standard part of the Spokane Police Department uniform, they’ll have to first work through what the city’s top cop says could be the key hindrance: Spokane police officers.

The Spokane Police Guild is using the city’s proposal as a key bargaining chip in their latest contract negotiations, which recently began, Interim Chief Scott Stephens told the city’s Public Safety Committee this week.

Read the rest of my story here.

Past coverage:

March 21: Law agencies see benefit of cameras

Police guild ‘embraces’ Council’s reforms

Spokane Police Guild officials announced in a news release Monday that the union “embraces” a police reform resolution that the Spokane City Council is likely to approve tonight.

“The Guild wants to thank the Council members for recognizing that many of the steps presented in the resolution may affect the working conditions of represented employees and would need to be negotiated with the affected unions,” the news release said. “The City Council can expect the Guild to negotiate in good faith.”

Jonathan Brunt has more at Spin Control.

Police Guild promises to negotiate in good faith for reform

Spokane Police Guild officials announced in a news release Monday that the union "embraces" a police reform resolution that the Spokane City Council is likely to approve tonight.

"The Guild wants to thank the Council members for recognizing that many of the steps presented in the resolution may affect the working conditions of represented employees and would need to be negotiated with the affected unions," the news release said. "The City Council can expect the Guild to negotiate in good faith."

The guild agreed to the city's first rules that created the police ombudsman but successfully challenged an update to the job's powers last year. The resolution in front of City Council tonight calls not only for the reinstatement of the ombudsman's independent oversight powers, but for the police chief to be able to use ombudsman reports when considering discipline.

Interim Police Chief Scott Stephens has said he would support the upgraded ombudsman rules.

"I believe the officers actually developed kind of a favorable opinion of that (the stronger police ombudsman ordinance that was repealed). The guild of course is taking a look at this and just saying, 'We don't have objections to that in principle. Again we just want to make sure that if you're going to do this we want to be at the table.' They felt like things were being done to them without their input and I think that's why they threw the roadblock up there."

A call to Guild President Erinie Wuthrich was not immediately returned.

Guild donates to theft-stricken charity

The Spokane Police Guild will donate $500 to the Wishing Star Foundation after burglaries left sick children without Christmas presents.

The donation is one of many the nonprofit organization has accepted since news of $1,000 in items stolen in two burglaries was reported last week at its office at 139 S. Sherman St. Stolen gifts included those meant for a four-year-old cancer patient whose home was burglarized in the Tri-Cities.

Certified Security Systems of Spokane Valley is donating a security system, and cash donations have enabled the organization to replace all lost items and then some, said Paula Nordgaarden, Wishing Star's executive director.

"Our community is so wonderful," Nordgaarden said. "This outpouring, it was overwhelming."

Nordgaarden said all families on the organization's waiting list will be taken care of this Christmas, and she expects to have about $15,000 leftover for next year.

"We want to thank everybody. Just a huge thank you from Wishing Star," Nordgaarden said.

Union leaders open to DOJ investigation

Spokane Police Department union leaders said Tuesday they’re happy to cooperate with a possible federal investigation of the department and have no concerns about what it may find.

“We know that we need the community to believe in us again, and that’s why we know this is a good thing,” said Lt. Joe Walker, president of the 13-member Spokane Police Lieutenants and Captains Association.

Read the rest of my story here.

Chief: ‘Silent majority needs to stand up’

Spokane police Officer Karl Thompson outside the federal courthouse in Yakima on Nov. 2 with (from left) his lawyer, Carl Oreskvocih, and Spokane Police Guild Vice President John Gately. (SRPhoto/Chris Anderson)

Spokane police Chief Anne Kirkpatrick suggested Monday that no cultural changes will occur within SPD until frontline officers change the leadership of the guild. 

As president, Ernie Wuthrich keeps two vice presidents, Officer John Gately, who attended every day of Karl Thompson’s trial and was by his side outside of trial, and Tim Moses, who required a letter of immunity from the U.S. Department of Justice before he would testify about his previous grand jury testimony incriminating Thompson.

When Moses (pictured right) did testify, he he blamed the FBI for intimidating him into testifying under oath to a grand jury that Thompson had struck Otto Zehm in the head with a baton.

“If you want true culture change, you look to your leaders and see who is being elected,” Kirkpatrick said. “That will be your weather vane of the cultural mindset. The silent majority needs to stand up and take back the voice and leadership of who they really are.”

But in an e-mail to The Spokesman-Review, Moses said he recalls Kirkpatrick supporting his promotion.

If “you really want to find someone to point the finger at for a lack of direction … deficiency of faith in the police … or issues with public trust … remember, we were under Kirkpatrick's administration and guidance the past 5 years,” he wrote in part. “Put the blame where it belongs.”

Read much more about the expected federal investigation n into the Spokane Police Department here.

City Council limits ombudsman powers

Spokane’s police ombudsman on Monday lost the power to independently investigate misconduct allegations against the city’s law enforcement officers.

The Spokane City Council voted 5-2 Monday to repeal police oversight rules it approved unanimously last year, blaming an arbitrator’s decision in July that determined the expanded powers violated the Spokane Police Guild’s labor contract.

Read the rest of Jon Brunt's story here.

Past coverage:

Aug. 23: Council debates police oversight rules

July 13: Police ombudsman rules downgraded

Charges dropped against ex-detective

The case against former Spokane police Detective Jeff Harvey has essentially been dropped after a jury deadlocked Wednesday on an obstruction charge and the prosecutor said he won’t pursue a second trial.

 Verdicts require unanimous decisions and the jury split 5-to-1 in favor of acquittal. Deputy Spokane County Prosecutor Brian O’Brien said the case is over.

“I won’t be pursuing it,” O’Brien said. Harvey “had to go through the full trial. We had our day in court on this charge.”

Read the reset of Tom Clouse's story here.

Past coverage:

Sept. 20: Obstruction trial for ex-police detective begins

July 16: Fired detective files $10 million claim

July 15: SPD detective fired for 'troubled history'

Feb. 10: SPD detective accused of obstruction

Fired detective’s criminal trial begins

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.

Read the rest of Tom Clouse's story here.

Past coverage:

July 16: Fired detective files $10 million claim

July 15: SPD detective fired for 'troubled history'

Feb. 10: SPD detective accused of obstruction

City council looks at police oversight

Spokane City Council members suggested they may need voters to save the stronger police oversight rules they approved last year, by working to place the concept on the ballot.

Passions were high during the council’s Monday meeting as they discussed overturning police oversight rules. The debate included a few shouting matches between attendees and Council President Joe Shogan.

Read the rest of Jon Brunt's story here.

Past coverage:

July 13: Police ombudsman rules downgraded

Fired detective wants $10 mil. from city

Fired Spokane police Detective Jeff Harvey and his attorney filed a $10 million claim against the city today, arguing that police Chief Anne Kirkpatrick terminated him because he spoke out against the chief’s policies as the vice president of the Spokane Police Guild.

“Chief Kirkpatrick has for some time expressed her retaliatory desire/intent to terminate Detective Harvey’s 24-year law enforcement career due to his ongoing vocal opposition to her disparate and unlawful treatment of union members,” Harvey’s attorney, Bob Dunn, wrote in the tort claim.

Read the rest of Tom Clouse's story here.

Past coverage:

July 15: SPD detective fired for 'troubled history'

Feb. 10: SPD detective accused of obstruction

SPD detective fired for ‘troubled history’

Spokane police Chief Anne Kirkpatrick fired Detective Jeff Harvey on Wednesday as a result of an alleged confrontation Harvey had with a state Fish and Wildlife officer and what his termination letter labeled a “troubled work history.”

The incident was “part of the pattern of behavior that (the department) had documented over the years with this particular employee,” said city spokeswoman Marlene Feist.

Harvey is the former vice president of the Spokane Police Guild.

Mayor Mary Verner said she “backs the chief’s decision.”

Havey’s termination letter was hand-delivered to his home, Feist said.

Read the rest of Jonathan Brunt's story here.

Past coverage:

Feb. 10: SPD detective accused of obstruction

Police ombudsman rules downgraded

An arbitrator this week revoked a law that strengthened Spokane’s police ombudsman powers because the city did not consult the Spokane Police Guild before it was approved last year.

The decision by arbitrator Michael H. Beck effectively reverses rules that strengthened the ability of police Ombudsman Tim Burns to investigate alleged officer misconduct independently of police. The opinion was dated Monday; the city received it Tuesday.

The power to examine police wrongdoing separate from the police department’s own investigators is a change in working conditions that must be negotiated with the guild, Beck ruled.

Read the rest of the story here.

Past coverage:

June 29: Spokane police ombudsman gains power

Police detective accused of obstruction

A Spokane police detective has been placed on administrative leave after he was charged with obstructing a Fish and Wildlife law enforcement officer.

Detective Jeff Harvey, 46, who is vice president of the Spokane Police Guild, was charged with the misdemeanor offense last week in connection with a January incident in which it’s alleged he “did willfully hinder, delay and obstruct” an investigation into illegal hunting.

Capt. Mike Whorton, of the Region 1 office of the state Fish and Wildlife Police, said he could not comment beyond what was in the report.

“This is one individual. It certainly doesn’t reflect on the professionalism of the Spokane Police Department,” he said. “They are working with us on the case.”

Police Chief Anne Kirkpatrick said she placed Harvey on paid administrative leave at 1:30 p.m. Wednesday.

“We will be thorough and complete in our investigation,” Kirkpatrick said. “He will remain on paid administrative leave for as long as it takes to do the internal investigation. The criminal matter needs to be handled independently of us.”

Read the rest of Tom Clouse's story here.

More cuts in street department may mean extra city layoffs

Spokane’s 2011 street budget was slashed by $1.5 million on Monday in a move that may mean extra city layoffs.

The Spokane City Council voted 4-3 on Monday to shift $1.5 million in street money to the city’s rainy-day fund where it could be used to reward departments with unions that made requested concessions.

City Councilman Steve Corker suggested the cut to help cover the cost of maintaining police and fire jobs. The city’s fire union recently ratified concessions that will save the city about $700,000 next year. But to save all the jobs called for in the agreement, the city needs closer to $1.4 million. A similar situation will occur in the Police Department if a tentative deal with the Spokane Police Guild is approved by members this week.

The union that represents Street Department workers, Local 270 of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, hasn’t made the concessions asked for by Mayor Mary Verner. Council members said they wouldn’t have targeted the street budget had the union cut a deal.

Councilwoman Nancy McLaughlin said she is “disappointed” that Local 270 had not made concessions.

“The concept is we have to be as fair as possible to not reward those who are not coming to the plate,” McLaughlin said. “It’s appropriate to now look at the areas where our hands are being forced.”

To Protect and To Serve

Can the Spokane Police Department improve its image with billboard ads?

I passed one today while traveling west on Trent. Two officers are pictured along with the following statement: “It’s Our Community. We Stand Ready to Protect and Serve.” How I hope that statement is true.

Personally, I believe that the majority of the men and women who are employed as police officers for the City of Spokane are sincerely holding that as their mission statement.

This all started with the City asking for budget cuts across most city departments, including the Spokane Police Department. The Spokane Police Guild purchased 12 billboards across the city, the one I saw being in the County along Trent Avenue. There are two phrases - the one I noted above - and a second sign reading “Property Crime Is Up. Police Investigations Down.”

I do NOT want to open a can of worms here. I’m not asking for readers to bash police or bring up Otto Zehm or other incidents that we’ve been beating into the ground. But I do want to talk about what the first billboard states and that is, “It’s our Community. We Stand Ready to Protect and Serve.”

That statement is what I strongly believe in. This is our community. Our community embraces humanity, culture, religion, independence, growth, compassion, love, life. We expect to enjoy all of this with the protection and servitude of all the employees of the Spokane Police Department.

It is my confident hope that the good in the people behind a badge will bring the ideals and dreams of that statement to a positive realization for our community.


SPD Guild endorses Bugbee for prosecutor

The Spokane Police Guild has endorsed Chris Bugbee for Spokane County prosecutor. Guild President Ernie Wuthrich told Bugbee of the endorsement in a letter sent to his campaign headquarters.

“Through your many years of service to the Spokane community you have developed a reputation as someone who is willing to fight regardless of the consequences,” Wuthrich wrote. “Many of our members have worked with you in a professional capacity and believe you to be fair and trustworthy and the best candidate to serve in this very important position.”

Here’s how the union described the candidates:

  • Bugbee, a former Spokane County Deputy Prosecutor now criminal defense attorney in both Washington and Idaho, has handled all crimes as a prosecuting and defense attorney.
  • David Stevens has only handled property, drug crimes and misdemeanors.
  • Republican Incumbent Steve Tucker- historically has settled crimes at all levels and his tenure likely appears to be over based on an absence of support from law enforcement and his own party.
  • Democratic candidate Frank Malone has spent the overwhelming majority of his career handling misdemeanor level crimes.

Other unions show support for Kirkpatrick

Division in the Spokane Police Department has been made clear by the March no confidence vote held by the Spokane Police Guild.

Some supporters of Police Chief Anne Kirkpatrick within the department responded by printing and wearing the button pictured above, and it appears she has the support of smaller groups within the department that are members of other unions.

“The chief has always been more than fair,” said Mike Smith, staff representative of Local 270 of the Washington State Council of City and County Employees. Smith said Local 270 opted not to hold a confidence vote in response to the Guild’s decision because “this is totally their issue.”

Smith said Local 270 represents about 60 police records specialists, radio operators and other clerical workers in the department.

Two other unions in the department, the Lieutenants and Captains Association and the police employees of the Managerial and Professional Association, wrote Kirkpatrick letters of support.

“The Lt’s and Capt’s Association is supportive of our administration,” wrote Capt. Steve Braun in an e-mail to Kirkpatrick on March 18. “We believe in the agreed upon mission, vision and values of the Spokane Police Department.”

Police guild distorted vote on Kirkpatrick

The extent of dissatisfaction with Spokane police Chief Anne Kirkpatrick among the rank and file may not be as bad as union leaders suggest.

A document obtained by The Spokesman-Review shows Spokane Police Guild leaders misrepresented the results of a recent no-confidence vote against Kirkpatrick and Assistant Chief Jim Nicks.

Of the 276 guild members, 112 voted no confidence in the department’s leadership, or fewer than half.

Guild President Ernie Wuthrich insisted earlier this month that more than half of the union’s members had cast no-confidence votes against the chief, not just half of the members who actually cast ballots. Wuthrich has refused to disclose the exact results of the no-confidence vote, saying it’s against union procedure.

Read the rest of the story here.

Past coverage: Police union claims no confidence in Kirkpatrick

Police union: No confidence in Kirkpatrick

Union leaders representing Spokane Police Department officers say they have approved a no-confidence vote against Chief Anne Kirkpatrick and her administration.

The Spokane Police Guild said a “majority” of its 268 members voted in March that they have no confidence in the “office” of the police chief.

“Our people are shaken to the core over this lack of trust,” said Guild President Ernie Wuthrich, a Spokane police detective. “We’re at an all-time low at this point.”

But union leaders refuse to release vote tallies, saying they never have for other votes and see no need to now.

Read the rest of the story here.