Monday, December 19, 2011

Extreme Police Makeover

David Condon has inherited an opportunity — a once-in-ageneration chance to reform the Spokane Police Department.

"It is my No. 1 issue. Make no mistake about it," says Condon, the incoming mayor of Spokane. "I've told directors of the other departments that it is my top priority. Everything is on the table.

"We're going to have a new mayor, new police chief, new assistant chief, a new council. There's a tremendous opportunity before us," says Tim Burns, the department's civilian ombudsman. "As I told Mayor Condon, [outgoing Mayor Mary] Verner inherited an impending train wreck. Mayor Condon has inherited an opportunity."

"Once in a generation," adds Breean Beggs, a longtime advocate for police reform who is representing Otto Zehm's family in a lawsuit against the city.

This fall, Officer Karl Thompson was convicted of using excessive force and lying to investigators about Zehm, who died in 2006 after being beaten and hog-tied by police. "The public understands broadly what went wrong," Beggs says. "It's totally the time [for reform]. This is the closest I've ever seen."
In addition to new political leaders, there's new leadership coming to the police department as well, with the retirements of Chief Anne Kirkpatrick and her assistant chief, Jim Nicks. The Thompson verdict and subsequent invitation from City Hall for the U.S. Department of Justice to review SPD's polices have put the force on notice: Times are changing.

The months ahead could see cameras installed on officers' uniforms, or perhaps the creation of a new position at City Hall — an elected city attorney. The police department could also be put under the purview of the sheriff.
These are all potential answers to the one question everyone seems to be asking: How do you reform the police department? 

Full article can be found here.

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