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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Spokane police department “dysfunctional,” forum participants say

More than one person described the Spokane Police Department as “dysfunctional” during a city forum Wednesday to gather input on the hiring process for a new chief.

“We need to do our own cultural audit of the Spokane Police Department,” said George Taylor, a pastor at All Saints Lutheran Church.

Community members brought up the recent felony charges against two police sergeants in connection with a sexual assault case, as well as comments by former Chief Frank Straub about resistance to reform within the department made in a report written for the city.

Straub’s comments were at odds with public statements he made as chief about reforms moving forward in Spokane.

“He was telling us something that he himself didn’t really believe for political reasons,” said Dave Plemons at the forum.

About 20 people attended a Wednesday afternoon forum at the West Central Community Center hosted by Mayor David Condon’s Police Leadership Advisory Committee, a group tasked with providing input on the job description and selection process for the chief.

That group includes chairwoman Mary Ann Murphy, former executive director of Partners with Families and Children; Toni Lodge, co-founder and director of The NATIVE Project; Spokane NAACP President Naima Quarles-Burnley; former U.S. Attorney Jim McDevitt, a member of the Spokane Regional Criminal Justice Commission; Kennewick police Chief Ken Hohenberg; former Use of Force Commission member Susan Hammond, a retired mental health professional; Jackson Andrews, an employee of American Ironworks; and Spokane City Councilman Jon Snyder.

The committee will hold a forum at the East Central Community Center Wednesday evening and held a session earlier this month at the Northeast Community Center.

Much of Wednesday’s discussion focused on current problems within the department, with community members suggesting a new chief needed the ability to tackle cultural issues head-on. A focus on community policing and an interest in crisis training and mental health competency also made the wish list.

Several people said the hiring process for a new chief needs to consider community input. Many charged Condon with ignoring that input when he selected Straub in 2012.

Center for Justice Director Rick Eichstaedt said the city should strive for transparency that was absent in the lengthy process to hire a new police ombudsman this year.

“Look at the ombudsman selection process and do everything opposite,” he said.

The committee will deliver a report to the mayor by Jan. 15 and is accepting comments on the chief’s job description and hiring process by email at policechiefsearch@spokanecity.org, or by leaving a voicemail at (509) 625-6281.

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