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Spokane City Council condemns controversial ‘killology’ police training

UPDATED: Mon., Aug. 24, 2020

The Spokane City Council voted Monday to formally condemn a controversial law enforcement training planned by “Killology.”   (SSR)
The Spokane City Council voted Monday to formally condemn a controversial law enforcement training planned by “Killology.”  (SSR)

The Spokane City Council voted Monday to formally condemn a controversial law enforcement training planned by “Killology” founder David Grossman in Spokane County.

Although it was not organized or hosted by the city of Spokane, City Council members said it was important to vocally oppose the “mindset bootcamp” training that will be open to local police officers.

Grossman, founder of the Killology Research Group, is a prolific law enforcement trainer whose critics argue promotes a “warrior” mindset among officers and predisposes them to using violence.

The training has been under scrutiny in the wake of the killing of George Floyd and protests over police brutality throughout the country, including in Spokane. Thousands of people signed a petition opposing the training in Spokane County earlier this year.

“We heard them, and we saw all the signatures that they were passing around,” said Councilwoman Kate Burke, who sponsored the resolution.

The training has been ardently defended by Spokane County Sheriff Ozzie Knezovich, whose office will host Grossman. He has argued that the media and activists have misrepresented Grossman’s training.

The training was originally scheduled for October but is in limbo primarily due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Knezovich has pledged to host a community forum with Grossman prior to the training, but the exact date depends on the level of COVID-19 restrictions on gatherings in place.

Although it is nonbinding, the resolution disapproves of the use of any city resources or funds to contribute to the training.

The training was not organized by the Spokane Police Department, and Spokane police officers have not been ordered to attend. Sheriff’s deputies are also not required to attend the training.

Still, “what happens in the county does affect what happens in the city,” Burke argued.

The term “killology” does not fit the city’s aspirations, Councilwoman Betsy Wilkerson argued, and policing “does not stop at borders or street names.”

“Killology is not the word that inspires us going forward as a community in a healing mode,” Wilkerson said.

Anwar Peace, a police accountability activist and newly-appointed member of the city’s Human Rights Commission, said Grossman’s philosophy and trainings are part of the “very reasons why the rash of police killings have been taking place.”

Instead of hosting the training, Peace called on Knezovich to implement a body camera pilot program. Spokane County Sheriff’s deputies do not currently wear body cameras.

Emily Peters of the Human Rights Activist Coterie, an organization that has protested the training, said she’s watched hours of interviews and training videos from Grossman. He uses military tactics and military experience to teach police officers to keep the peace, which she argued does not work.

“He’s really not the right person to train the sheriff’s department or SPD,” Peters said.

Councilwoman Lori Kinnear said the resolution was important not just now, but to ensure that the training does not return to Spokane.

“We want to make sure that we’re pursuing a model that is a guardian mentality and not a warrior mentality,” Kinnear said.

Councilman Michael Cathcart was the only member to vote against the resolution, on which he said he was neutral because “it’s not a city issue at all” and that he hasn’t heard from both sides of the issue. Cathcart said he would form an opinion on Grossman’s training after Knezovich hosts a community forum.

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