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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Deputy suspended after domestic call

Thomas Clouse Staff writer

A Spokane County sheriff’s detective has been suspended for four days without pay after he was arrested last month on suspicion of misdemeanor domestic violence assault and malicious mischief.

Detective James William Speaks, 41, was arrested after his wife called deputies following an argument in which she claimed that Speaks broke down a door, pushed her and broke several dishes in their home, according to court records. The assault charge has since been dismissed and the malicious mischief will be dismissed if Speaks keeps out of similar trouble for a year.

Fellow deputies investigated the incident, and Speaks was immediately put on paid administrative leave, sheriff’s spokesman Cpl. Dave Reagan said. Speaks later returned to work, but was kept off the streets until he was reinstated Sept. 27.

“The only reason it is newsworthy is that it involves a police officer,” Reagan said, referring to Speaks. “That’s a little frustrating to us. It’s a little unfair. But we understand the public holds us to a higher standard. We hold ourselves to a higher standard.”

Along with the criminal investigation, the Sheriff’s Office conducted an internal review, which also is complete, Reagan said. It found that Speaks violated two department policies, one for allegedly damaging his wife’s property and the other for alleged excessive drinking.

The office of professional standards found that Speaks “violated the law by committing malicious mischief and (confirmed) that he violated department policy,” Reagan said. “The Sheriff’s Office policy is that you will not use alcohol to the point where you exhibit obnoxious or offensive behavior.”

Sheriff Mark Sterk determined the penalty, which was four days without pay, Reagan said. It was not clear Monday whether Speaks has served that suspension.

Speaks’ phone number is unlisted, and he could not be reached for comment late Monday.

According to court records, 41-year-old Charlene Speaks said the incident began Sept. 2 after she came home from shopping with Speaks’ daughter from a previous marriage. “I spent a little more money than he wanted,” she wrote.

James Speaks then started to argue with his wife and it lasted for hours, the documents state. She eventually went to another room to sleep, but she woke up about 4:30 a.m. and heard her husband rummaging through her things, according to the documents.

“He started arguing more and threw my tapes from the bag on the front lawn,” Charlene Speaks wrote.

She locked herself in a bedroom, and James Speaks broke the door down, she said in court records. “He pushed me and I pushed him back away to avoid more physical contact,” she said.

After that confrontation, Charlene Speaks went to their kitchen to gather coffee mugs and other belongings. “He broke some of these items of mine,” she said.

James Speaks’ oldest daughter arrived to comfort his youngest daughter, and James Speaks yelled at the oldest daughter as well, said Charlene Speaks, who went to a friend’s house to call deputies. They arrived and arrested James Speaks, according to court records.

Last week, District Court Judge Donna Wilson dismissed the assault charge and continued the malicious mischief charge for dismissal.

Speaks, who investigates property crimes, earns between $57,000 and $67,000 a year. Reagan did not have the exact figure late Monday and was unsure how long Speaks has been employed with the county.

“As a part of the administrative process, you are always warned that future violations will not be tolerated,” Reagan said.

Reagan said Speaks has not been told to get alcohol counseling.

“I think they sat him down and said, ‘Don’t let this happen again,’ ” Reagan said. “We tell them, ‘If you have a problem, fix the problem, or you can’t be an employee here anymore.’ “

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