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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

Sirens & Gavels

Condon and Straub talk at White House forum on community policing

Spokane Mayor David Condon and police Chief Frank Straub are in Washington D.C. this morning to speak as part of a panel discussing community policing.

The forum, which was organized by the White House, also featured Boston police Commissioner Bill Evans, and former Boston police officer and its current chaplain, Rev. Gary Adams. The 45-minute discussion was led by Jerry Abramson, deputy assistant to the president and director of intergovernmental affairs.

The talk ranged over many topics, including how officers should interact with the community, people with mental illnesses and deal with issues of race. 

Condon, who is currently running for re-election, said it was the continued fallout from Otto Zehm's death that partly led to his election in 2011, five years after Zehm's death at the hands of a police officer.

"One of the reasons I’m in office is a critical incident that happened in our community," he said. 

Condon mainly talked about the outreach the city has done under his administration, including on social media, and through teletown halls and surveys. He said the public’s confidence in Spokane police was 66 percent when he took office. Now it's at 94 percent, Condon said.

Straub focused on the use of body cameras and the challenges they bring.

He said 150 meetings were held with the community to discuss the use of cameras in 2013.

"It also became a joke. If you were having a birthday party for your kids, and you wanted a body camera demonstration, we would do it," Straub said.

Straub said that 95 randomly selected police officers are currently wearing cameras, part of a project done in collaboration with Arizona State University. The university reviews the, on average, 30 contacts camera-wearing police have with the public, and then interviews the officer and the citizens involved.

Straub said the biggest challenge with body cameras comes with what to do with the footage that is collected.

"Buying the cameras is easy," he said. "The storage, the redaction and dealing with the privacy issues are the incredibly challenging things we have to confront as a profession."

Straub said the police department has received 175 public record requests fro body camera footage, the vast majority from media. Only one request has come in asking for all the footage from the department's pilot program, but Straub said police worked with requester and did not have to provide all footage.

Straub said it takes three hours of "person time" to redact one hour of footage.

Nicholas Deshais
Joined The Spokesman-Review in 2013. He is the urban issues reporter, covering transportation, housing, development and other issues affecting the city. He also writes the Getting There transportation column and The Dirt, a roundup of construction projects, new businesses and expansions. He previously covered Spokane City Hall.

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