New Report Shows Some Racial Disparities in Spokane Policing

Mar 3, 2021

The city of Spokane released a report on racial disparities in policing.
Credit Doug Nadvornick/SPR

The city of Spokane released a report Wednesday that shows disparities in interactions between police the community.

The city hired a consulting firm to analyze the last three years of data that includes arrests and other interactions with the public. The firm found racial disparities in 911 and Crime Check calls to police and disparities in use of force.

Spokane Police Chief Craig Meidl said the department is working to address findings found in the report.

“The use of force piece is always something we’re analyzing over and over again at multiple levels,” he said. “That’s something that shows me … we can’t rest on our laurels. We have to keep analyzing the data, and finding areas we can improve.”

According to the data released by the city, Black people are 22% more likely to have force used against them and Native Americans are 49% more likely.

The largest disparity analysts found is the number of Black and Native American people who are reported to law enforcement. Black people in Spokane are three times as likely as white people to have the police called on them. Native Americans are 68% more likely.

Meidl said racial disparities in police calls is a problem nationwide. He said, locally, the department has discussed the context that can be often missing from a 9-1-1 call and has tried prepare for those situations.

“One of the things we started working on last year and discussing is dispatch priming, which means this data you’re being given is coming from potentially a victim, maybe a witness,” he said. “Be mindful of that, you don’t ever want to dismiss that information, but be mindful that there may be more involved than what is being told to the dispatcher and then told to the officer.”

Meidl also noted that there were some areas in which he expected there might be racial disparities, such as traffic stops and tickets, but data showed those were proportional to the population.

The city has made the full report available on its website and has committed to providing updates with more data.

The full 300-page report can also be read here.