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The Seattle Police Department’s civilian watchdog has found that an officer’s ruse in a 2018 hit-and-run case contributed to the driver’s suicide.
In his last days in office, outgoing police ombudsman Tim Burns said ongoing mistrust of Spokane police is rooted in past events, and that it’s time for the community to acknowledge the large strides that have been made in police reform. “Oversight will always be on the agenda, from Otto Zehm’s day forward,” he said.
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.”
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.
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.
Spokane Mayor David Condon is heeding the advice of Spokane City Council members who have pushed him to reopen contract negotiations with the Spokane Police Guild. The mayor and guild agreed to a tentative four-year labor contract last fall, but that deal was rejected by the City Council in November. It was nearly rejected a second time in December before the council opted to delay a vote until Feb. 3.
Another Spokane police officer is facing a criminal charge in connection with the fatal 2006 confrontation with Otto Zehm. Officer Timothy Moses, 52, was quietly charged last week in Spokane Municipal Court with making a false statement to a public servant, which is a gross misdemeanor. He’s been ordered to appear in court for arraignment by May 3.
The Spokane City Council on Monday unanimously approved a resolution calling for a series of measures that they said would improve accountability of the police department.
Spokane’s elected leaders are ready to push for the use of body cameras on police officers to record their interactions with the public. The Spokane City Council on Feb. 6 will vote on a resolution outlining its goals for reforming the Spokane Police Department in the aftermath of an officer being convicted of violating the civil rights of a Spokane man who died in police custody.