The U.S. Department of Justice will announce recommendations for the Spokane Police Department Friday, including a call for a study looking at the department’s staffing and a “training alignment” that focuses on the department’s use of force and crisis intervention policies.
The details of the recommendations have not been released, but at a Public Safety meeting Monday, police Chief Frank Straub sought permission from City Council members to hire Stephen James and pay him $76,000 for a year to “work through training obligations” issued in the review.
James is the lab manager at Washington State University’s Sleep and Performance Research Center. A former British military officer, James is close to receiving his doctorate from WSU in criminal justice and criminology.
James wouldn’t speak about specifics of his potential work with the department, but he did say his studies focus on how fatigue and training affect “human performance.” Specifically, he studies the “best practices in driving and use of force, the two things that kill the most cops.”
As a Technical Assistance Project, the review wasn’t done by the Justice Department, but rather by a paid consultant, and looked into the culture at the Police Department as well as use of force incidents over the past four years. Since March 2009, Spokane police have shot and killed 12 people. Five of those shootings have happened since the start of 2013.
The only other police department to undergo this type of review is the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department, which had a review of use of force policies and practices that covered five years of incidents.
Spokane’s federal review is not a full “pattern and practice” investigation, the type of probe conducted in Seattle in 2012 by the Civil Rights Division of the Justice Department.
Still, as Straub told committee members, the recommendations “are not open to discussion” and must be acted on by the city.
This article was updated from its print version on Dec. 16, 2014 to clarify the number of officer-involved shootings in Spokane County that involved Spokane Police Department officers.
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