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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Condon announces police culture audit will be completed by Gonzaga University students

More than three years after the Use of Force Commission recommended that Spokane leaders study the attitudes and culture within the Spokane Police Department, Mayor David Condon announced Friday the city will move forward with a culture audit. The Use of Force Commission, which was formed in response to the conviction of a Spokane police officer for violating the civil rights of Otto Zehm, made numerous recommendations for improving the department. The city moved forward on most the recommendations, but police leaders in 2015 said they didn’t believe a culture audit was necessary.

Spokane Police Use of Force Commission leaves culture audit decision to Chief Straub

Citing improvements in police transparency and accountability, Spokane’s Use of Force Commission said it would defer to police Chief Frank Straub’s decision about whether to conduct a formal culture audit of the department. But an Eastern Washington University study released last week showing police disproportionately stop black and Native American residents has renewed calls from some community leaders for an audit to look at, among other things, how officers view race and whether that impacts their actions on the street.

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.

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.

Spokane Police Department gains state accreditation, will reopen training academy

In what Spokane Police Chief Frank Straub called a “major step,” the city’s police department has gained accreditation with the state and will reopen its training academy. “We are becoming, every day, a better and better police department,” Straub said Thursday, flanked by Mayor David Condon, Kennewick Police Chief Ken Hohenberg and Sue Rahr, head of the state’s Criminal Justice Training Commission.

Shawn Vestal: Police shooting follow-up will determine progress

So here it is: Money-where-your-mouth-is time for the Spokane Police Department. Officers shot a robbery suspect to death on Wednesday night, right outside his front door. Chief Frank Straub described what happened in this manner: The man refused “multiple verbal commands” to drop his gun and comply with officers, and officers were “engaging” him both inside the house and when he emerged from the house. “At some point,” he said, officers feared for their own lives and the community’s safety, and shot the man.

Shawn Vestal: Hard work remains to shift Spokane police culture

A lot of positive changes have taken place in and around the Spokane Police Department. Those changes should be credited and appreciated. But how much change has occurred in the hearts and minds of the members of the Spokane Police Department?

Police chief touts progress on Use of Force recommendations

Spokane police Chief Frank Straub said Wednesday that his department has made significant progress on every one of the 26 recommendations issued by the city’s Use of Force Commission in February, including an anticipated purchase contract for body cameras that will be worn by officers at all times. Straub’s lengthy presentation, which came a day shy of marking his first year as the city’s top cop, took place in the City Council chambers before a crowd of community members, city department heads and about 20 police department employees.

Council OKs spending $1.1 million on police equipment, training

Spokane police patrol cars may soon be equipped with cameras to record encounters with the public. The Spokane City Council last week agreed to spend $1.1 million from reserves to implement recommendations made by the Use of Force Commission earlier this year.

Police use of force review wrapping up

Spokane’s quest to restore police accountability will largely succeed or fail based on the department’s ability to improve how it investigates its own officers, a consultant concluded. Police procedure expert Michael Gennaco, whose work helped steer the city’s Use of Force Commission, found Spokane Police officials sometimes did a great job documenting officers’ use of force. Gennaco also found problems, however, including investigators asking leading questions, failing to ask key questions of officers and not interviewing key witnesses.

Input sought on use of force report

Several community members on Wednesday thanked the city of Spokane’s Use of Force Commission for months of work, and police Chief Frank Straub said he and Mayor David Condon will soon announce plans to implement suggested changes in the police department. The commission held the first of two public hearings to comment on 26 recommendations it made Dec. 20. The report is part of Condon’s stated goal of restoring community trust in the department following the conviction of former Officer Karl F. Thompson Jr. for using excessive force and lying to investigators about his 2006 confrontation with Otto Zehm.

Use of Force Commission urges upgraded police instructor training

As the Spokane Police Department starts its makeover, one of the top suggestions by the city’s Use of Force Commission is for police officials to upgrade the training of officers who instruct other officers. The extensive review of the department’s policies and procedures found that no Spokane police officers have received instructor recertification since 2007.

Use of force panel offers 26 recommendations to improve police department

A yearlong review of the Spokane Police Department found a professional organization committed to public service but lacking in identity and needing improvements in how it investigates its own officers. The draft report by the independent city Use of Force Commission was released Thursday with 26 recommendations for how the department needs to improve, with the ultimate goal of restoring public trust following the scandal surrounding its handling of the Otto Zehm investigation.

Commission seeks list of changes for SPD

The long-awaited draft report by the independent City of Spokane Use of Force Commission was released today and it calls the Spokane Police Department to change how it polices itself and calls for more training to ensure that officers diffuse problems before they escalate into deadly-force confrontations.

Officers cleared in every case of excessive force since 2007

Internal affairs investigators for the Spokane Police Department have sided with officers accused of brutality and excessive force in every single complaint filed by citizens over the past five years, a statistic that troubles several community leaders, including the city’s new top cop. Longtime brass within the police force, however, say the community needs to look beyond statistics alone and consider that the Spokane department does a better job of training and weeding out potential problem officers early in the recruiting process.

Council approves Zehm deal

The Spokane City Council on Monday closed one chapter of the excessive force case that has dominated Spokane headlines for six years by finalizing the $1.67 million settlement with the family of Otto Zehm. The council voted unanimously for the deal, which was reached in mediation last week between city representatives, including Mayor David Condon, and Zehm family attorneys.