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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Council Approves New Police Review Commission

After a number of revisions and several delays, a revamped citizens board designed to look into complaints of police misconduct finally is in place.

The Spokane City Council on Monday unanimously approved plans for the Citizens Review Commission, which will replace the troubled Citizens Review Panel that nearly collapsed last fall under complaints it wasn’t working.

The new commission will have seven members instead of 11, and will have better access to information.

“One of the things that makes this successful is that no one is totally happy with it,” said Councilman Joel Crosby of the proposal, adding that no group completely opposed the plan either.

Crosby headed up the committee charged with overhauling the review panel.

Council members several times delayed acting on the committee’s proposal while waiting for comments from the two police unions - the Police Guild, and the Lieutenants and Captains Association.

The unions recently suggested changes to the plan, including strengthening a confidentiality agreement for review commission members and allowing the unions to recommend two members.

The mayor gets final say on appointments.

Union officials also asked that any new information the commission discovered while investigating a complaint be sent back to the police chief for further review.

Richard Kuhling, a former panel member who also sat on the reorganization committee, appealed to the council not to agree to the union’s proposed changes.

Allowing the unions to appoint two of the seven members “stacked” the committee in favor of the police, Kuhling said.

“The whole idea is that this be for the citizens,” he said. “As soon as you appoint members with a vested interest, you no longer have an independent citizen review.”

The review process was designed to hear residents’ complaints about police misconduct even after the police chief had dismissed them.

Almost no one seemed happy with the review panel’s progress last fall. Some complained it was too big, others said it had no authority. Still others complained the police department was uncooperative.

Crosby urged Kuhling to give the revamped review board a chance. “This makes great strides over the former citizens review panel.”

Also Monday:

The council heard a report on last month’s citizens retreat, touted as a prioritysetting session for residents who want a say in how their government works.

Nearly 250 people attended the two-hour, Saturday morning retreat, where residents urged elected officials to listen to their concerns and vote accordingly.

“The retreat was a resounding success,” radio talk show host and retreat moderator Ron McArthur told the council.

The council agreed to put a measure aimed at using taxpayer money to pay for the spaying and neutering of dogs and cats on the November ballot.

LaVerne Kettlety gathered more than 4,000 signatures hoping to put the proposal before taxpayers.

If approved, the initiative would dedicate 0.1 percent of the city’s annual general fund - about $103,000 - for the spay and neuter program.

Mayor Jack Geraghty apologized for allowing the NCAA basketball championship game to play on a TV monitor that faced the council during last week’s meeting.

“As far as I’m concerned, that got away from us,” Geraghty said. “In the future, that will not happen here.”

A few minutes later, Crosby said he was unfairly made the target of criticism for the game-watching incident.

“I did not watch the entire game, only parts of the game,” Crosby said. “And I did not initiate the game being on.”

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