In what Spokane Police Chief Frank Straub called a “major step,” the city’s police department has gained accreditation with the state and will reopen its training academy.
“We are becoming, every day, a better and better police department,” Straub said Thursday, flanked by Mayor David Condon, Kennewick Police Chief Ken Hohenberg and Sue Rahr, head of the state’s Criminal Justice Training Commission.
The accreditation bestowed by the Washington Association of Sheriffs and Police Chiefs is based on more than a hundred criteria, including records management, internal affairs investigations and the use of force. Those standards have been in place since 2007, and Spokane joins more than 50 other agencies statewide that have completed the accreditation process, including the Spokane County Sheriff’s Office, Spokane Valley Police Department, Cheney Police Department, King County Sheriff’s Office and Washington State Patrol.
The police department’s accreditation fulfills one of the key recommendations of the city’s Use of Force Commission, formed by Condon in the wake of several high-profile incidents involving Spokane officers. The panel said attaining accreditation would “expose the organization to the regular review of external knowledgeable parties.” The department must apply every four years to maintain its accredited status.
“This is a third-party validation … to make sure we’re doing things in the right way,” Condon said.
Earl Martin, Use of Force Commission chairman, said attaining accreditation is a major step toward changing the culture within the department, the top recommendation among the commission’s suggested reforms.
“We led with culture for a reason,” Martin said Thursday. “It’s the area that does require the most attention.”
Spokane received particularly high marks for its handling and security of evidence, which are being held as standards for the rest of the state, Straub said.
The re-establishment of the Basic Law Enforcement Training Academy in Spokane will mark the first time in more than five years that incoming officers can receive training in the state somewhere other than in Burien. Spokane Police Capt. Judi Carl will oversee the training academy, which will ease the burden on the lone operating installation, Hohenberg said.
“We definitely have a capacity issue over in Burien,” Hohenberg said, adding that the wait list for potential officers wishing to receive training is six to eight months.
Allowing recruits to train with officers whom they will then see on the streets will lead to a more cohesive culture within the department, Rahr said.
“Now you have new officers and veteran officers who share those same core values,” she said.
Straub said the announcements reflect the “renewed energy in our police department, and a renewed energy in our community.”
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