SPOKANE, Wash. – Former Spokane NAACP leader Phil Tyler has recently taken a very public role in the movement to stand up for women.
Now some are complaining Tyler's past shows someone quite different than his public persona, while Tyler characterizes the controversy as a smear campaign.
Tyler along with Spokane County Sheriff Ozzie Knezovich, Spokane Police Chief Craig Meidl, Spokane Fire Chief Brian Schaeffer and Mayor David Condon took part in a video that calls for men to take a stand against sexual harassment and sexual assault.
After this video, some people came forward expressing concerns about Tyler spearheading this kind of campaign, in light of reports of his past treatment of women. On Thursday, the Inlander ran an article using interviews and court records from Tyler's three ex-wives. In that article, each tells a similar story of abuse from years ago. Tyler denies their accounts of what happened.
KREM 2 found a civil case of domestic violence involving Tyler from 1998 where a protection order was issued at the time. Tyler was also charged with malicious mischief in 1991 but that case was dismissed.
Through a public records request KREM 2 learned Tyler was considering a run for city council but one of his ex-wives emailed Council President Ben Stuckart asking him not to appoint Tyler.
"Please don't appoint Phillip Tyler to the vacant position on the city council. He is not someone with integrity, which I think is essential for that position. He has a violent history which I know about firsthand. I lived with domestic violence from him starting in 1986 as his 18 year old wife. We divorced in 1990. I felt, at the time, it was useless to report the abuse because he was an Air Force police officer. He seems to have developed a new persona now but that doesn't change true character. I am from Spokane and have always loved it here and I believe that that this great city should be represented by honorable people. Phillip Tyler has dark secrets from his past that his supporters don't realize. I am not one to make waves, but I thought you should know about this," the email said.
KREM 2 reached out to Tyler who provided a video response where he and his wife address the allegations of past domestic violence.
“I have been accused in this article of decades old allegations of some egregious behaviors. I have denied these allegations,” Tyler said in the video.
KREM 2 also put in a records request with the Spokane County Jail where Tyler worked as a corrections lieutenant and eventually a sergeant. During his time there, there were a series of complaints from co-workers about Tyler's behavior.
One complaint reads, "His behavior has created an atmosphere of fear and intimidation." and "It is obvious to us that he is particularly aggressive toward females."
While some of the complaints prompted internal investigations, not all of them were sustained and none led to his termination. Tyler is documented as denying those allegations.
It was the Inlander article that prompted Thursday’s reaction from the Spokane Area National Organization for Women.
They released a statement that reads:
“At Spokane Area NOW, we believe women. We believe Chloe. We believe Darci. We believe Katrina. We believe all women who bravely come forward to tell their truths and end the silence that pervades our society and culture regarding violence, disrespect, and degradation towards and against women.
Because a woman does not report abuse or because a man has not abused every woman with whom he has been, it does not make that prior abuse invisible. The incidents highlighted in this article are deeply concerning, brutal, and, toxic. This is not a three decades long campaign to destroy one man’s success. This is a three decades long timeline of one man's documented aggression, control, violence, and persistent abuse.
Yet, there is a strong overtone of victim blaming and gaslighting in Tyler’s responses. There is no way for the community to move forward until there is an acknowledgement of his role in these incidents. We cannot begin to heal survivors of domestic violence, or repair the trust of a community until abusers accept responsibility instead of continued repudiation. Mr. Tyler, we call on you to take accountability for your actions. There is room for redemption but you must take the first step.
And because of the We Will Rise video, we request that all of the men who appeared alongside Tyler: Spokane Mayor David Condon, Spokane Police Chief Craig Meidl, Spokane County Sheriff Ozzie Knezovich, and Spokane Fire Chief Brian Schaeffer release their own statements regarding domestic violence. We, and the Spokane community, would like to understand the measures you will take to ensure the City and County agencies, over which you have authority, are offering services and protections to women in abusive situations - as well as how you plan to follow through on your claim to rise with us against sexual harassment and assault. Until we hear your words and obtain your assurances, your promises in this video will remain unfulfilled.
We finally encourage Mayor Condon, Police Chief Meidl, Sheriff Knezovich, and Fire Chief Schaeffer to invoke their friendships with Tyler to encourage him to take onus of his actions so our community and the women involved can begin healing.”
Condon, Meidl and Schaeffer released a joint statement showing support of victims of domestic violence and giving them a voice, but they never name Tyler.
“As local leaders we support giving victims a voice. It is our jobs and responsibilities to make sure we provide a safe place in our neighborhoods, communities, places of work, and other places we congregate for victims to speak up and advocates to speak out.
The allegations are very serious. Violence against women is a problem plaguing our country and dominating headlines nationally, and Spokane is no different. Too many women are victims and we have more speaking up every day.
This is not an easy discussion. It will take time and many more steps forward, but we must continue to stand against violence and for the voice of victims in our community.
As leaders of a city government, police department and fire department, we have taken steps to increase reporting options, make victims more comfortable coming forward, and protecting them when they are courageous enough to speak up. The police department has partnered with the YWCA to open the Family Justice Center, a center of excellence that puts victim assistance, advocacy, enforcement, and prosecution together in one location. Police officers visit offenders in jail and follow up with victims in their homes to make sure they continue to get the assistance and support they need through the prosecution process.
As much as we would like, change does not happen overnight. It will require a determination and diligence that we will continue to lead and demand that others join.”
Tyler and his wife said this amounts to a political smear campaign.
“To be clear, I've known about each one of these women and these unhealthy relationships. I knew about how he left each relationship to better himself and remove the toxic nature of these circumstances. We aren't saying this is all made up. I won't call another woman a liar and each of us have our own story. What I am concerned about is the narrative of trying this in the court of public opinion with only partial facts," Tyler’s wife Meg Demand said in the video statement.
“Let me be clear. I am not and never claimed to be a perfect person. There's no such thing. To all those that would quickly point fingers and make comments do some self-assessment about what you are doing to widen the divide. I have been and continue to be an advocate for my community and those issues impacting its citizens and friends. I have been on the front lines, at the tables and in many of the discussions. I am a whole-hearted supporter of the Time's Up and Me Too movements. I support them without equivocation and I will continue to do so,” Tyler said.
In the video, Tyler also denied the allegations and said he and his wife plan to continue to work for the betterment of their community.