Spokane City Council releases first draft of proposed police reforms

Spokane City Council proposes reforms

SPOKANE, Wash – The Spokane City Council Thursday rolled out the first draft of what the council president said would be a “suite of police reforms.”

The reforms come in the wake of a wave of protests and demands for change nationwide. That’s happening, just as the city is negotiating a contract with the Spokane Police Guild.

Much of the debate locally has been about police oversight, specifically the role of the Office of Police Ombudsman. The current ombudsman Bart Logue spoke to the council in a study session Thursday and gave his thoughts about certain aspects of the reforms.

“Reform is not an attack on police officers,” Logue said.  “We’re only talking about police practices.”

The draft resolution begins with comments that say “Black lives matter and must matter to all of us if we are going to realize the promises of freedom and liberty for all people in our community.”

It goes on to point out a need to heal divisions in our community and also recognize that “there is a human who lives with us in our community behind every badge.”

The need, the resolution points out, is to build public trust in law enforcement agencies which the resolution says is at a “critically low point” nationwide.

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The resolution sets priorities for the “City of Spokane’s Public Safety Reform Agenda.” It includes things like opening the bargaining with police contracts to public view. It also removes the use of force category “exceptional tactics” and says intentional dog bites and neck restraint/pressure techniques could only be acceptable in justified use of deadly force cases.

It would prohibit police from using armored vehicles unless officers are at “imminent risk of coming under gunfire” and says the city will “no longer purchase or accept military-grade weapons and hardware.

The draft resolution would also prohibit police from using things like tear gas, rubber bullets and flash-bang grenades as crowd control “except as a defensive measure in response to an imminent risk of injury to our officers or bystanders.”

Spokane Police used those methods during a protest in the wake of the George Floyd death in late May.

The resolution calls for police to post general rules of engagement before large events, marches and demonstrations so participants will know ahead of time how to keep the peace and what will happen if that peace is disturbed.

“Our goal should be that Spokane doesn’t have riots again because we are doing everything we can,” Logue said. “The police department still has the tools it needs to be able to effect arrests and stay safe, all those things.”

The resolution also encourages diversity in the department, more training on gender study and implicit bias, and improving accountability.

It also streamlines requirements surrounding body cameras and the release of body camera video.

The draft calls for the department to “prohibit, modify or drastically reduce to the extent absolutely necessary for officer safety, the so-called ‘no-knock’ execution of search warrants.”

“This is the first public draft of a suite of police reforms that have been requested by community members and organizations and are based on reforms that have already been implemented or are under consideration in other jurisdictions,” said City Council President Breann Beggs. “What is remarkable about this proposal is that it is more comprehensive and balanced than any other set of reforms that we have seen to date. We invite public comment on how they can be improved and what still needs to be added.

The full draft resolution is below.

Reform Agenda Resolution by Erin Robinson on Scribd