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DOJ: Spokane Not Excessive With Force; Troubled With Admin Problems

Department of Justice
Paige Browning
Spokane Public Radio

The U-S Department of Justice has found leadership was lacking amongst Spokane police for more than eight years. This came in a list of 42 recommendations handed down by the federal COPS program to the Spokane Police Department Friday.

The recommendations came after the police department requested a federal review of its use of force practices. It stems from a 2006 case, in which Spokane man Otto Zehm was beaten by police and died. It’s the second collaborative review ever done between local police and the federal Community Oriented Policing Services, COPS, program. The first was Las Vegas.

COPS Director Ron Davis says they reviewed more than 200 use-of-force cases from the past five years. More than 500 happened in that time-span.

Davis: “We did not find that the police department routinely or deliberately engages in excessive use of force or deadly force. However, we did find deficiencies in the Spokane Police Department’s management and administrative processes.”

The report says, for example, the department rarely issued disciplinary or corrective actions in use of force incidents, and that supervisors were not required to fill out reports after deadly-force incidents. The COPS office recommends an overhaul of Spokane police policies, leading to better accountability, culture and, frankly, paperwork. Spokane’s police chief, mayor, and council president all said they’re committed to the recommendations.

Otto Zehm’s second cousins Dale and Sandy Zehm were at the announcement.

Zehms: “What’s going on now is very, very beneficial, and we have the promise of the mayor and chief of police… Any help like that has got to be helpful for the rest of our city.”

The Justice Department will follow up on the report over the next 18 months.

Copyright 2014 Spokane Public Radio

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