City Council Tries to Restore Community Confidence In Spokane - Spokane, North Idaho News & Weather KHQ.com

City Council Tries to Restore Community Confidence In Spokane P. D.

SPOKANE, Wash. - After remaining silent through former Spokane Police Officer Karl F. Thompson's criminal trial, members of the Spokane City Council broke their silence Monday night by unanimously passing a resolution regarding the case.  
 
A jury recently convicted Thompson, 64, in a federal trial in Yakima of using excessive force and lying to investigators when he beat 36-year-old Otto Zehm with a baton in 2006. At the time of the confrontation, Thompson believed Zehm was a robbery suspect. Zehm died two days later.
 
In the resolution, city council members state that they respect police officers' heroism in protecting the community, but said the resolution is designed to help restore the community's confidence in law enforcement. City council member Jon Snyder, who sponsored the resolution, said the council plans to accomplish that by increasing transparency and accountability in the police department as well as through outside investigations. The resolution is non-binding.
 
The resolution states that is supports the city's new plan to release redacted Internal Affairs reports as well as supports the expanded authority of the police department's Ombudsman.

Last week, Spokane Police Guild President Ernie Wuthrich said the unions wanted to see more defined language to determine the ombudsman's role. Snyder insists the ombudsman should have independent investigative authority.
 
"He should be able to issue final reports online and he should be able to have the transparency and kind of power that citizens of Spokane want him to have," Snyder said.
 
In an email statement from Mayor Mary Verner, the Mayor notes that the city already changed its practice and is releasing records under the normal process.

The resolution also states that the council supports two outside investigations into the Spokane Police Department including Mayor Mary Verner's requests for a Department of Justice Patterns of Practices investigation. They also support a citizen's panel, led by the former Dean of Gonzaga Law School, Marty Martin, to investigate the city's handling of police use of force issues.

"I think the public really wants us to drill down and find out how the city handled this whole series of events and what we can do better in the future," Snyder said. "We owe that to them and we're going to follow up on that."
KHQ Local News asked the Department of Justice for an update on the status of Mayor Verner's request for an investigation but no one immediately responded.
 
In a statement, the mayor said, "The Council's support for my actions is appreciated and exhibits broad agreement of City's elected officials."
 
KHQ Local News reached out to Chief Anne Kirkpatrick as well as a police spokesperson for comment about the resolution but the department did not immediately respond.
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RESOLUTION no. 2011-0093

A resolution regarding community confidence in law enforcement.

WHEREAS, Spokane Police officers risk their lives everyday in service of the citizens of Spokane and routinely display great heroism and exemplary service; and

WHERES, the actions of a minority of Spokane Police do not necessarily represent all those in the Spokane Police Department; and

WHEREAS,the Spokane City Council remains firm in it's desire to strengthen police oversight with the expanded authority of the office of police ombudsman; and

WHEREAS, we concur with the joint statement made by the Mayor and Chief Kirkpatrick that "the courtroom behavior of some Spokane officers, though protected as free speech, does not reflect the values we stand for," and "we expect our officers-because of their position in the community-to live up to a high professional standard." now, therefore,

be it resolved that the Spokane City Council:

1. denounces the courtroom behavior of Spokane police officers present at the conclusion of the Karl Thompson criminal trial who saluted a fellow officer after he was found by a jury to be guilty of two felonies.

2. supports the city of Spokane's change of practice as a result of the Bainbridge case in which redacted internal affairs reports are now being released.

3. supports the mayor's panel, led by Earl F. "Marty" Martin of Gonzaga Law School, which is being convened to investigate the city's handling of police use of force issues and related litigation matters, and supports the mayor's request that the U.S. Department of Justice do a "Patterns or Practices" review of the Spokane Police Department...

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