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Friday, September 20, 2019  Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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News >  Spokane

Spokane police making progress on Justice Department recommendations

Spokane police have completed five of 42 Department of Justice recommendations on improving training and policies related to use of force, according to a report released Monday.

The report is the first detailed look at the department’s progress on a group of recommendations made last December by the Justice Department’s Community Oriented Policing Services following an 11-month voluntary review of the department. The review was done at the request of former Chief Frank Straub.

Recommendations included requiring a deadly force review when officers use a neck restraint designed to render people unconscious; improving internal communication about staffing changes within the department; and clarifying a request by the city Use of Force Commission for a departmental culture audit.

Since the review in December, the department has re-established an annual citizen’s academy, created a new community outreach strategy and continued publishing annual use-of-force reports, the report said. An early notification system designed to identify officers who use force more frequently than their peers was switched to issue an alert after four uses of force in a calendar year, instead of six.

Another 27 recommendations are in progress, the Justice Department said, and 10 have not been started. Among those are four recommendations for the police ombudsman and the ombudsman commission; the ombudsman position has been vacant for a year, delaying progress.

Several other recommendations have not been started because they involve changes to administrative review panels, the internal groups that review deadly uses of force and some misconduct complaints. The panels can require officers to appear for questioning and recommend discipline, so some changes in their policies need to be reviewed by the Spokane Police Guild and Lieutenants and Captains Association.

The Justice Department recommended allowing the panel to review an officer’s tactics and decision-making during a use of deadly force instead of simply deciding whether the officer followed department policy. It also recommended allowing the police ombudsman to sit in on deadly force review panels.

Data for the report was collected in June, six months after initial recommendations were made. The police department also has published monthly progress reports on the Justice Department recommendations and presented them to the city’s Public Safety Committee.

Public records requests made by The Spokesman-Review in October and November for police department policies and other documents that have been created or revised due to the Justice Department review still are being processed. A request made in April for similar documents was denied because policies still were under review by the city attorney’s office.

A complete list of recommendations and their status is available at www.spokesman.com/doj/.

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