City Responds To Police Misconduct - Spokane, North Idaho News & Weather KHQ.com

City Responds To Police Misconduct

SPOKANE, Wash. - In a federal custody hearing for convicted felon officer Karl Thompson last week dozens of Spokane Police Officers saluted Thompson in an unprecedented showing of support for their fellow officer. Many of the officers were in plain clothes and off duty.

Thompson had just been convicted by a Yakima jury of using excessive force and lying to investigators, from an incident when he beat 36-year-old Otto Zehm with a baton in a convenience store on March 18, 2006. Zehm died two days later.
 
The officers saluted Thompson when he left court in front of Zehm's family. It was the first time the two groups were in the same courtroom since the criminal proceedings began. 

At the time many in the community raised red flags about the officers' conduct. Several filed complaints with the city Ombudsman.

Shortly after the hearing, Mayor Mary Verner and Police Chief Anne Kirkpatrick released a joint statement that read, "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."

But on Wednesday City Spokesperson Marlene Feist responded to criticism and complaints about the officers' conduct saying no officer violated professional standards.

In a statement to KHQ, Feist wrote:

"At this point, the Mayor and the Chief are not going any further with this matter. On Friday, they essentially publicly reprimanded the officers for their behavior. Their opinion of the behavior was clear in their joint statement. We are attempting to confirm that all of the officers in the courtroom were off duty, since that would be a violation of a direct order issued by the Chief, but that's it.

Neither the Chief nor the Mayor can just declare that a police employee has violated a professional standard like the ones you list. That would violate due process rights of the employees. Instead, they could launch an investigation into the matter. Most of the standards you list wouldn't apply to those who are off-duty. And, the likely discipline outcome would be no greater than the effective reprimand they've already received."

Thompson is set to be sentenced January 27, 2012. He faces 20 years in prison.

 

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