Community organizations call for cultural audit of Spokane Sheriff’s Office

Community organizations call for cultural audit of Spokane Sheriff’s Office

The Spokane NAACP, along with 22 other local organizations and individual activists, are calling on the Spokane County Sheriff’s Office to be more transparent in light of the firing of Sgt. Jeff Thurman.

Thurman was recently terminated for allegedly making racist and sexist remarks.

In a collective statement issued Saturday night, the NAACP and its partners ask the sheriff’s office to develop “an equity strategic plan,” and have an “outside source” conduct a cultural audit of the department. The organizations want that audit to include a report on stops, arrests and use of force with a breakdown by race, gender and areas by the end of the year.

The groups, including the Spokane Coalition of Color, Spokane Community Against Racism (SCAR) and ACLU of Washington, commend the sheriff’s office for taking action in firing Thurman, but go on to say:

“It is time to embrace the reality that the mindsets of racial bigotry and cultural superiority are alive and well here in our Spokane community, criminal justice system, private institutions, and yes, in some of our law enforcement family… While we do not desire to demonize or ostracize people like Mr. Thurman, we absolutely call upon the organizations within which they serve, especially organizations whose mission it is to hold people accountable and to dispense justice, to take a serious, hard, transparent, and community-accountable cultural inventory in order to evaluate its internal perspectives. This process needs to be timely, community driven, persons of color (and allies) inclusive, transparent and restoratively accountable.”

“We’re putting it nicely, but the reality is that we’re demanding it because these people are in operation in these places of power and have been for a long time. It is time to quit trying to sweep it under the rug,” said Spokane NAACP president Kurtis Robinson. “You know, we have a lot of great hope for the sheriff. He and I have had some really wonderful powerful conversations and we’ve had some tough ones. The fact is, is that every time I’ve asked to come to the table with him, he’s been there.”

Thurman, who worked for the sheriff’s office for 18 years, was put on administrative leave May 8 following an internal investigation. Thurman was accused of saying “You ready to kill some (N word) tonight or what?” in a phone call with another deputy.

Thurman has since filed a nearly $12.5 million suit against the county, claiming Sheriff Ozzie Knezovich’s statements about what led to his termination were defamatory. He has also appealed his termination to the Civil Service Commission.

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