Citizens work to increase police accountability
As the city of Spokane awaits Karl Thompson's sentencing, a group of concerned citizens is working to increase police accountability.
Karl Thompson violated Otto Zehm's civil rights by using excessive force and lying to investigators.
The Spokane Police Accountability and Reform Coalition council says they want to prevent another Otto Zehm case from ever happening again. In order for that to happen, they say the police culture needs to change and the community needs to get involved.
There seems to be a dark shadow cast over the police department that both citizens and police officers want lifted.
The coalition met to brainstorm ways to build trust and increase accountability with the police department. Members agree that they need to prevent the next tragedy before it occurs.
"My thoughts are how do we move on from any particular incident and get at the systems under the individual incident so we can prevent them so we don't have to wait to react to a single incident," Liz Moore, Director of the Peace and Justin Action League, said.
Moore believes the change starts with a culture shift along with training officers on how to interact with victims or suspects with a mental illness.
"One of the deeper issues is what kind of use of force officers are trained to use," Moore said.
The coalition wants more transparency and independent authority in the police Ombudsman's office.
Tim Burns, the current Ombudsman, says he's investigated 125 complaints against the police department this year.
"I think we just need to be more available, more accessible and more visible in the community," Burns said.
Councilman Salbatori is proposing an ordinance to make the Ombudsman's office a permanent position and add it to the city charter. That proposal also pushes for the ability to independently investigate cases. The issue will be up for debate at city council and then up for vote in February.
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