Conduct Unbecoming? - Spokane, North Idaho News & Weather KHQ.com

Conduct Unbecoming?

SPOKANE, Wash. – Did Spokane Police Officers violate codes of conduct following a federal court hearing last Friday? That's the question some community members are asking after dozens of Spokane Police Officers saluted Officer Karl Thompson, in an unprecedented showing of support.

Thompson was in Spokane Federal court for a custody hearing after a Yakima jury convicted him on both counts of lying to investigators and using excessive force. The jury found Thompson guilty of excessive use of force when he beat and tased 36-year-old Otto Zehm in a north Spokane convenience store on March 18, 2006. Thompson approached Zehm because he believed Zehm was a robbery suspect. The two fought inside the convenience store. Zehm died two days later.

Thompson, who was previously out of custody during his federal criminal trial, was ordered into custody by a US Magistrate Judge pending his sentencing.  As the US Marshals lead Thompson out of the courtroom, a contingent of officers stood and saluted Thompson.

It was the first time Spokane Police Officers, Karl Thompson and Otto Zehm's family were in the same courtroom together. In all, there were about 50 officers at the hearing; Most were in plain clothes.

Shortly after the hearing Mayor Mary Verner and Police Chief Anne Kirkpatrick emailed a joint statement to the media that, in part, "The courtroom behavior of some officers, though protected as free speech, does not reflect the values we stand for."

On Monday, the Chief was out of town and the Mayor chose not to make a comment about officers' conduct.

So KHQ read through hundreds of pages of the Spokane Police Policy Manual, a nearly 50 page document, and found roughly a half dozen violations that could possibly call some officers' conduct into question. Those policies are described below:

Standard 3.6 - Members of the Spokane Police Department, with due regard for compassion, shall maintain an objective and impartial attitude in official contacts.

Standard 4.4 - Members of the Spokane Police Department shall maintain a level of conduct in their personal and business affairs in keeping with the high standards of the Spokane Police Department.

Standard 4.9 - Members of the Spokane Police Department shall at all times conduct themselves in a manner which does not discredit the law enforcement profession or the Spokane Police Department.

Standard 4.10 - Members of the Spokane Police Department shall not be disrespectful, insolent, mutinous or insubordinate in attitude, or by conduct, or by disregarding a lawful order.

Standard 4.11 - Members of the Spokane Police Department shall be courteous and respectful in their official dealings with the public, fellow members, superiors and subordinates.

On duty or off, the Chief and the Mayor made this message clear in their statement: "We expect our officers - because of their position in the community - to live up to a high professional standard."

City Spokesperson, Marlene Feist, told KHQ that if there was a question about an officer's conduct, there would still be due process. If there was a case, it would go through Internal Affairs and an investigation would be conducted.

RESOURCES:

Spokane Police Department Policy Manual: http://www.spokanepolice.org/documents/PolicyManual_website.pdf

Mayor Mary Verner and Chief Anne Kirkpatrick's Statement in Full:

"We have acknowledged the pain that many of our officers feel as a result of the Thompson verdict, but it has been widely reported to us that the courtroom behavior of some officers, though protected as free speech, does not reflect the values we stand for. It clearly was insensitive to the friends and family of Otto Zehm, and for that, we apologize. We had previously directed that officers could not be in the courtroom while on duty. Still, on duty or not, we expect our officers-because of their position in the community-to live up to a high professional standard."

This web story was filed by KHQ Local News reporter Chelsea Kopta.

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