Spokane PD changes use of force policy


by KREM.com


Posted on October 11, 2013 at 11:30 AM

Updated Monday, Oct 21 at 6:53 PM

SPOKANE, Wash.-- If you have a gun pointed at you, that may change your life forever. Now, when Spokane police officers point a gun at you it is considered a use of force. 

KREM 2 News discovered that Spokane Police Department Chief Frank Straub issued a new requirement for his officers as he works to rebuild SPD’s relationship with the community it serves. The change took place May 23rd, 2013.

The Spokane Police Department changed the way it classifies an officer pointing a weapon at someone. The change came from Chief Straub in his 2013 Training Bulletin #4. He informed officers that directly pointing a firearm at an individual is considered a use of force.

“I don't point my weapon at anything or anybody that I don't intend on shooting,” said Chief Straub during an interview with KREM 2 News. “It's that simple, so if I point my weapon at you, it's there by the grace of good and probably some very good training that keeps me from shooting you…. hopefully, it's your complying to my commands."

KREM 2 News submitted a public records request to see how often officers point their weapons at people. There were 9 incidents where a Spokane Police Officer pointed their weapon at someone without firing between May 23 and right now. This number is out of 41,949 total incidents requiring police response. This would mean police point their guns without firing .021% of the time.

The most notable incident of ‘pointing a firearm’ was when a woman damaged a department of corrections vehicle. Authorities said she then broke into a fire station, stole a fire ax, and smashed firehouse windows.

The woman was then approached by a sergeant, who pointed a gun at her as she held the ax. The sergeant did not fire. Another officer tased her and took her into custody.

KREM 2 News looked into details of the other incidents and none raised concerns about whether officers were justified in pointing their weapons.  When you consider police pointed a firearm at a suspect on 9 different occasions and shot suspects 3 different times in 2013 it appears to illustrate exactly what Chief Straub said: When an officer points a gun at you, it’s no idle threat.

Police Ombudsman, Tim Burns, suggested the department start keeping the new stat on pointing a firearm.

“It’s a critical event in someone’s life. I will tell you if you have a gun pointed at you, that may change your life forever, and that’s assuming the trigger doesn’t get pulled,” said Burns.

Straub added that SPD is in process of seeking accreditation from the Washington Association of Sheriffs and Police Chiefs. He said changing the use of force policy brings SPD in line with the best practices for the accreditation.