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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

Clark: To those who disgraced the law they swore to uphold

“Members of the Spokane Police Department will so conduct their public and private lives that they exemplify the high standards of integrity, trust, and morality demanded of a member of the Spokane Police Department.”  Canon Four of the Spokane Police Department Policy Manual Code of Ethics

Might I suggest some much-needed reading?

The 447-page policy manual that spells out what it takes to be a law enforcer in Spokane, to be specific.

I’m talking to you – the 50 or so cops – who disgraced yourselves Friday morning in a downtown federal courtroom.

“Present arms!” one of them barked.

The defiant herd snapped into a unison salute as their fallen felonious colleague Karl Thompson was led from the courtroom and into custody, right where he belongs.

“Members of the Spokane Police Department are granted a public trust which requires that they consistently demonstrate the highest degree of integrity.” – Policy Manual General Statement

One observer suggested that the salute reminded him of a gang sign being flashed to a fellow banger.

It fits. Thompson’s 2006 beat-down of Otto Zehm in a Spokane convenience store was a thuggish act. Zehm, who was wrongly reported as a thief, died two days later.

Many of us spent the last five years wondering if justice would ever come for Otto.

Then on Wednesday afternoon, a federal jury in Yakima found Thompson guilty for not only his violence, but also for the lies he later told investigators in an attempt to cover up his brutality.

It’s a bitter pill for Thompson’s friends on the force.

They are the Thin Blue Whine, angrily refuting the verdict as undeserved and unfair, and now acting out in a federal courtroom.

They conveniently forget that Thompson’s conviction came via the very laws and system that police officers promise to preserve and protect.

They should be thoroughly ashamed of themselves.

Especially since Zehm family members were there. These still-grieving people were a captive audience as these callous, classless cops showed support for a criminal who could spend the next decade behind bars.

“Members of the Spokane Police Department shall recognize that their allegiance is first to the people, then to their profession and the government entity or agency that employs them.”  Standard 3.9

One officer even wept openly for Thompson.

Meanwhile, Spokane weeps for Otto.

No wonder police Chief Anne Kirkpatrick and Mayor Mary Verner scrambled to issue a joint apology for the officers’ boorishness.

“The courtroom behavior of some officers, though protected as free speech, does not reflect the values we stand for.”

Nice try, but this is the SPD culture you both have allowed to flourish.

While we’re at it, however, someone should apologize for the U.S. marshals as well. Their failure to slap the cuffs on Thompson before leading him away is the sort of special treatment we mere civilians rightfully abhor.

The lack of trust Spokane residents have for their police these days is appalling.

But relations will never improve as long as police officers pull thoughtless antics as they did on Friday.

Too many cops in this town have forgotten that law enforcement is a High Calling. They need to quit worrying about the Brotherhood of the Badge and look back on that proud day when they took up the badge.

“I … do solemnly swear that I will support the Constitution and Laws of the United States and of the State of Washington, and the charter and ordinances of the City of Spokane, and that I will, to the best of my ability, faithfully, honestly, and impartially perform and discharge the duties of Police Officer during my continuance as such, so help me God.” – SPD oath of office

Doug Clark is a columnist for The Spokesman-Review. He can be reached at (509) 459-5432 or by email at