Spokane Police clarify limits on store security officers




Posted on June 17, 2014 at 8:22 AM

Updated Tuesday, Jun 17 at 12:44 PM

SPOKANE,Wash.-- The Spokane Police Chief held a meeting to clarify a letter he sent out in May that led to frustration among local retailers.

The Assistant Spokane Police Chief updated the City Council Monday on a meeting Chief Frank Straub held with 12 retailers about a letter he sent to them on May 6. The department said the letter, which announced “immediate changes,” was actually intended to clarify the powers limited commission security officers held at retail establishments.  

The letter stated that limited commission officers could not use handcuffs or any form of restraint, force, or pat-downs. It also said officers were to release individuals who refused to be detained.

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The edict was met by questions from retailers whose security officers commissioned through the Spokane Police Department had limited arrest powers and the authority to cite suspected criminals for 11 charges.

“We understand the job of retail security and sometimes they have to make arrests, detain people, use a certain amount of force, [and] handcuff folks,” explained assistant chief Rick Dobrow. “But the authority to do that doesn't come from a limited commission issued by the  Chief of Police.”

Dobrow said the chief gives limited commission officers the authority to write criminal citations. Store security officers, not acting as limited commission officers, have the right to temporarily detain shoplifters under state mercantile law, according to the Spokane Police Department.

“I think there was a little bit of confusion and I think what we’ve done is defined which authority is granted by the chief and what comes from the state,” Dobrow said. “Then figuring out something that works, meshing those two together, and I think we've come to an agreement that's gonna work quite well.”

Dobrow said the chief recommended retailers have a third party, not involved in detaining the suspect,  write citations under the limited authority given by Spokane Police. Dobrow explained the letter was meant to define liability.  

“If you grant me the authority to do something, and I'm operating under your authority and I overstep that bounds, of course I have some liability,” Dobrow explained.