Parallels seen between Minneapolis fallout and Spokane

SPOKANE, Wash. — With the conviction of Derek Chauvin on Tuesday, some in the Spokane community see parallels between that case and the death of Otto Zehm at the hands of a Spokane police officer.

A similar Department of Justice probe happened here in Spokane.

“The investigation will also assess whether the MPD [Minneapolis Police Department] engages in discriminatory conduct and whether its treatment of those with behavioral health disabilities is unlawful,” said U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland.

Garland said Wednesday morning the Justice Department is launching a civil investigation into the Minnesota Police Department. It comes a day after a jury found former officer Derek Chauvin guilty on all three charges death of George Floyd. Here in Spokane following the death of Otto Zehm, there was no investigation of pattern and practice.

“We voluntarily went to the Department of Justice and asked for collaboration,” said City Council President Breean Beggs.

Beggs represented the family of Otto Zehm. He said the City of Spokane received expertise training recommendations for crisis intervention training for every officer.

“I think largely as a result of that, the use of force by our officers went down 50% and the complaints against officers went down 50%,” added Beggs.

While justice was done in this case, Beggs says it was only one step of many more that need to be taken.

We have an eyewitness video which made all the difference in the George Floyd case, and frankly all the difference in the Otto Zehm case, we had a video that 100% contradicted what the police said the night of the incident and that’s what made the difference, in my opinion,” he said.

Currently there are several bills going through the Washington Legislature and Beggs says would help diffuse the conflict between the community and law enforcement.