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The Spokesman-Review Newspaper

The Spokesman-Review Newspaper The Spokesman-Review

Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Spokane Use of Force Commission wraps up with praise for police progress

In its final meeting before it disbands, the city’s Use of Force Commission lauded the improvements made by the Spokane Police Department in the last two years. But members also questioned why two of its recommendations have not been fully completed: a culture audit of the department and departmentwide use of body cameras. The two recommendations were among the 26 the commission gave to the police department for implementation.

Junior officers try on vests for size during police academy

Garrett Mosar has wanted to be a police officer since he was 2. As he tried on a heavy police vest and had his picture taken Saturday afternoon at Spokane Police Department’s first Junior Police Academy, Garrett, 8, was more excited than ever about his chosen future career.

Editorial: Foundation has been established for ongoing police reforms

To appreciate how far Spokane has come with police reforms, it helps to remember where we were. In the summer of 2006, Police Department leaders were sticking with the pre-video-release claim that Otto Zehm had lunged at Officer Karl Thompson. That fall, the Citizens Review Commission would take up its first complaint against an officer in a decade, deciding in private there was nothing it could do. Afterward, one of the commissioners called the man who brought the complaint “an ass.”

Shawn Vestal: Body camera policy evolving in positive directions

Seventeen Spokane police officers put on body cameras 13 weeks ago. In the time since, at least two important things have happened: Chief Frank Straub said the department was tightening the rules to give officers less discretion in turning off the cameras, moving toward a default position of “always on.”

AG’s office: No consent needed for body cameras

The cameras that will soon be worn by all Spokane police officers on patrol may continue rolling without consent in most cases, the Washington attorney general’s office announced Monday. Most interactions between officers and citizens are public and exempt from the state’s stringent privacy laws, Attorney General Bob Ferguson and members of his team told reporters Monday. They believe that finding will prompt many jurisdictions to adjust their policies.

Shawn Vestal: Spokane police reform to get federal report card

The feds are getting ready to give the Spokane Police Department a report card of sorts – a wide-ranging set of recommendations arising from a two-year review of department practices. It will be several weeks before the public is allowed to see the details. But next week, the team from the Department of Justice’s COPS program will be back in town to go over the preliminary recommendations with city officials and to establish a schedule for how and when the department will meet what are expected to be about 40 recommendations.

Police must now leave cameras on

In response to public feedback, Spokane police officers outfitted with body cameras will record every incident they respond to for the next month of the department’s pilot program. Spokane police Chief Frank Straub announced the change, which will become effective Saturday, at a community forum at Gonzaga University’s Cataldo Hall Thursday night. He said the shift is in line with other police departments and the desires of Spokane residents.

Shawn Vestal: New police ombudsman commission gets to work

Spokane’s new citizens commission charged with overseeing police complaints opened its first meeting with many of the dreadfully dull but important questions that government work is made of: scheduling meetings, deciding leadership duties, learning the ropes of Robert’s Rules of Order and the state public meetings law. But before the night was over, the Office of the Police Ombudsman Commission was already engaging serious issues, formally asking the Spokane Police Department to more thoroughly investigate two complaints, including one that has been the most significant point of disagreement between the ombudsman, Tim Burns, and police Chief Frank Straub.

Spokane mayor’s budget plan includes raises for himself, his cabinet

Spokane Mayor David Condon already makes more money than Washington Gov. Jay Inslee. Next year, if his proposed pay raise gets approved by the City Council, he’ll make more than his former boss, U.S. Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers. The $7,000 raise will bring his annual pay to nearly $180,000, and the increase is part of the mayor’s proposed 2015 city budget released this week. He’s not the only one set to receive a bump in pay. The 14 people in Condon’s Cabinet, including the mayor, are getting on average a 2 percent increase in pay.

Spokane police officers investigated for steroids

Two Spokane police officers noted for competitive bodybuilding are under federal investigation for illicit steroids. The officers, Tramell “Mell” Taylor and Lydia Taylor, are married and share a home in north Spokane.

Spokane councilman Mike Fagan tries to halt police pact

Spokane City Councilman Mike Fagan unsuccessfully attempted to derail an employment contract agreement between the city and the police leadership union Monday night, saying “citizens still hold a grudge” against police for recent misconduct. The council was considering a five-year collective bargaining deal with the Spokane Police Lieutenants and Captains Association. The agreement is largely in line with a deal struck with the Police Guild earlier this year, according to Council President Ben Stuckart.

Cops, cameras a gray area

Spokane police officers wearing body cameras as part of the department’s pilot program will stop recording in private residences if asked by the home’s occupant, police Chief Frank Straub said Friday. “Some police departments in the state are, in fact, turning off their body cameras when they go into the house,” Straub said. “We’ve been advised by city legal that we should go in that direction right now.”

Shawn Vestal: Body cameras test role of public input

Interesting times for local government and picture-taking: Some Spokane police officers have started wearing body cameras to record their interactions with the public, and a city vehicle has been outfitted with license-plate-reading technology, allowing it to prowl the streets for ticket scofflaws and overtime parkers. In both cases the public’s voice has so far not been sought. In particular, there have been criticisms of the Spokane Police Department’s decisions to go forward with a test phase of the body cameras without more public input beforehand. This is a tempting framework through which to view the situation: Efforts at accountability and reform should proceed with as much public oversight and contribution as possible.

Rules for body cameras worn by Spokane police in flux

The policy that will govern use of body cameras worn by 17 Spokane police officers starting Monday has gone through several iterations, and is likely to change again before a pilot program ends in December. A draft set of rules submitted to the Spokane City Council earlier this month reflects several changes since the policy was panned by the American Civil Liberties Union of Washington in July, citing a lack of clear standards about what should and should not be recorded, as well as uncertainty about which recordings would be retained and for how long. Police have been working to develop rules for use of the chest-mounted cameras bought by the city since the hardware was approved as part of a labor contract signed in February.

Increased criminal use of airsoft guns worries police

The gun in Stephen Corkery’s hand when he allegedly robbed several Spokane businesses and walked into a fatal standoff on West Grace Avenue in March was fake, investigators say. The alleged crimes, and the consequences, were very real.

Plea deal resolves case of police consultant cited at Davenport

A Spokane Police Department consultant cited for two counts of assault after a fight in the Davenport Tower bar in May will not serve jail time under a plea deal approved this week. Paul Lewis, a trainer with the Boston-based North American Family Institute, was in town to oversee the police department’s Youth and Police Initiative program for at-risk youth when the incident occurred. When police arrived, Lewis, 51, told the officers that he was friends with police Chief Frank Straub and wanted to speak with him.