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Spin Control

Fagan calls on Human Rights Commission to apologize for comments on transgender assault

Yesterday, Spokane police announced they found no improper conduct by officers who responded to the assault of a transgender woman, Jacina Scamahorn, at Boots Bakery in late January. Scamahorn and a witness had said responding officers were disrespectful and referred to her as a man throughout the encounter.

News of the assault was publicized by Spokane Human Rights Commission chair Blaine Stum, who called on citizens to show support for Scamahorn at a city council meeting.

This morning, Councilman Mike Fagan sent an email to Stum requesting an apology for the actions he took:

Blaine,

Good Morning!

You and I have had this conversation previously regarding the completion of the investigation surrounding the allegations made against the Spokane Police Department. I believe that it is time for the Human Rights commission (HRC) to issue a statement.

As you recall, the incident, the subsequent testimony, and all of the media coverage that occurred really put a negative light on the reputation, policy and procedure of the Spokane Police Department.

You also know that the council, the Mayor, the Chief, and many others have worked our tails off in trying to reform, restructure and re-brand the Spokane Police Department after years of negativity.

Now that the investigation has been completed and the police officers on the scene were not acting inappropriately, It has become obvious that the HRC acted to quickly. By doing so, all of the aforementioned efforts have been impacted by this incident, and I am sure that those who saw the coverage, have had their opinions of the Police department shaken.

At your earliest convenience, I would respectfully request that you issue a public statement apologizing for the action you and/or your commission took without first waiting for the investigation to be complete. I believe that those actions put our city in a bad light with the rest of the nation, and have impacted and damaged the reputation of our Police Department.

Thank you for your consideration.

Regards,

Mike Fagan 

Stum sent Fagan this response:

CM Fagan,

With all due respect, no such apology will be forthcoming. At no point during our advocacy for Jacina did the Human Rights Commission defame, slander or otherwise degrade the Spokane Police Department. In fact, in all interviews that I conducted with news media, I made it clear that I and other Commissioners were reserving judgment of allegations of improper conduct on the part of the police officers until after Internal Affairs conducted its investigation and we were privy to more information. We cannot (and should not) control how victims choose to relate their side of the story, nor how the media chooses to report such incidences or allegations.

You may not know that I have been intimately involved with bridging the gap of trust between the LGBT Community and the Police Department for years now. These efforts have included hate crime forums, community discussions with law enforcement, in-service training and numerous outreach efforts that have taken place over the last 5-6 years. Despite my best efforts, and the commendable efforts of Chief Straub and Director Schwering, that gap still exists whether I or anyone else likes it or not, and no amount of press releases will help bridge it.

As a Commission, we are dedicated to continuing to work collaboratively with law enforcement on the issue of community trust; whether it is within the LGBT community, communities of color or the disabled community. As we have in the past, we do so with the utmost respect for the honorable men and women who serve our community as Police Officers.

Thank you,

Blaine

The Internal Affairs report on Scamahorn's assault has not been publicly released yet, but police spokeswoman Monique Cotton said it would likely be released later today.



Rachel Alexander
Rachel Alexander came to the Spokesman-Review in 2014 after working for the Walla Walla Union-Bulletin. She covers social services, health and science for the City Desk and writes a monthly data-focused column, Know Spokane.

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