City Council wants prosecutor to speed up use of force rulings

City Council wants prosecutor to speed up use of force rulings

SPOKANE, Wash. - Spokane's city council wants faster answers about officer involved shootings and Monday night the council intends to urge Spokane County Prosecutor Steve Tucker to speed up his decisions about whether or not officers' use of force incidents are justified.

Sometimes it takes almost a year for Tucker to rule whether or not the use of force was justified and the council thinks that's just too long.

It's been eight months since Spokane Police officers shot and killed a hit and run driver in front of the Salvation Army but it wasn't until late last Friday that prosecutors said the officers wouldn't face any criminal liability in the case.

"Well I want the prosecutor's office to take all due care in processing these cases but at some point we really need to get them out there so we can get some closure for the families involved, for the law enforcement officers involved," Spokane City Council member Jon Snyder said.

Everyone agrees that finding the truth about what really happens in use of force cases takes time. All of the participants have to be interviewed independently and it can take six weeks for the victim's toxicology report to be returned completed from the crime lab.

All of the weapons involved also have to be sent to the Washington State Patrol Crime Lab for testing so investigators know which officer fired which bullets.

However, local law enforcement agencies are wrapping up their investigations in about two months when the prosecutor's office is taking up to six months to make a use of force decision.

"We're not questioning the quality of the work that's coming out of the office," Snyder said. "We're questioning the timeliness of it, because it delays every other aspect of what we do, whether it's the ombudsman's responsibilities or whether its our own internal review responsibilities of the police department."

Even the Department of Justice has said Spokane is behind the curve on the speed of its use of force reviews.

The prosecutor hasn't yet ruled on a ten month old in custody death in front of a South Hill Oz Fitness, but has resolved more recent cases.                          

"Sometimes there is not a really good reason that I can ascertain that it's taking so long to do this," Snyder said.

KXLY sources indicated that sometimes the release of rulings in use of force reviews are delayed for political or public relations reasons.

Tucker, who is not running for re-election in November, was attending the Washington Association of Prosecuting Attorneys meeting in Richland and was unavailable for comment on this story.