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Spokane City Council release potential framework for police form

The resolution deals with oversight and accountability, hiring and use of force, among other areas.

SPOKANE, Wash — The Spokane City Council released framework for police form on Thursday that focused on the use of force and accountability, among other things.

The council released a discussion draft of the resolution on Thursday, which outlines 24 points of reform for the Spokane Police Department.

The resolution states that it comes in an effort to begin "to heal the divisions in our community." It also says that "Black lives matter, and must matter to all of us if we are going to realize the promises of freedom and liberty for all people."

Use of force

The second point specifically calls for the department's "Exceptional Tactics" policy to be eliminated, which allows for officers to depart from use of force policies and use neck restraints, pressure techniques or intentional K9 bites. The council's resolution calls for the elimination of the category.

The next point called for the department to be banned from using armored vehicles "except under conditions where officers are at imminent risk of coming under gunfire." It also calls for the city to no longer purchase or procure military-grade weapons, equipment or ammunition. This includes tear gas, flash-bang grenades and rubber bullets, "except as a defensive measure in response to an imminent risk of injury to our officers or bystanders," according to the resolution.

The resolution also calls for the department to "prohibit, modify, or drastically reduce" no-knock raids.

In a news release Friday, Spokane Police spokesperson Julie Humphreys said that, in 2019, the department made changes to its use of force policy to include a de-escalation policy in an effort to achieve minimal uses of force.

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Hiring practices

The fourth point of the resolution calls for more diverse hiring of officers, and states that the department must reflect the demographics of Spokane by 2024. 

Humphreys also addressed demographics of the department in the release sent out Friday, saying the department's make up is "representative of our population." According to Humphreys of the department's 341 commissioned officers, 306 are white, 13 are Hispanic or Latino, six are Black, five are Native American, 4 are multiple ethnicity, one is Asian and six are listed as "other." Thirty-four of the 341 officers are female, according to Humphreys. 

Oversight and accountability

The resolution calls for an ordinance to be created by the city creating a duty for officers to report when they see a colleague using unauthorized force. The report would need to be made on scene to a commander or the commander's superior, and failure to due so could lead to the witnessing officer being held liable for what they witnessed, according to the resolution.

The council's potential resolution also states that it would more effectively enforce a "duty to intervene," meaning that an officer witnessing an unauthorized use of force must try to intervene by physical or verbal means. If an officer witnesses unauthorized force and doesn't attempt to intervene, they could be liable for the other officer's actions, according to the resolution.

If the resolution were to pass in its current form, it would also make changes to the position of city attorney. Instead of being a position appointed and only accountable to the Spokane mayor, it would instead become an independent position only removable during their term for cause.

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The council's resolution also calls for the City of Spokane to advocate on the state and national level for the removal of the qualified immunity doctrine.

As for Internal Affairs investigations, the resolution calls for the city to again publish IA investigations on its website with names redacted, as well as publicly posting all public records requested from the city in relation to these investigations.

The resolution also calls for the recording and posting of all administrative review, use of force panel and deadly use of force panel meetings.

Body camera video also was addressed in the resolution. Point 15 calls for officers to ensure body cameras are on from the time a call is received until the officer clears the scene or transfers the call to another officer.

The next point also states that, from the day the resolution is effective, the City of Spokane must release all body camera video with redactions within 45 days of a public records request.

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Another change called for in the resolution is for the City of Spokane to publicize rules of engagement, outside of specific strategies, for large events, demonstrations and marches so officers and participants can know what to expect.

Other points covered public collective bargaining in the future, the addition of more behavioral health interventionists, the Office of the Police Ombudsman, the Civil Service Commission and police officer time-off ratios.

The Spokane City Council held a study session to discuss the resolution on Thursday, and City Council President Breean Beggs said the earliest the resolution would be voted on is July 13. It will also be open for public feedback before the vote.

The resolution can be viewed on the Spokane City Council website.

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