POLICE FACE REORGANIZATION Chief Underlines Core Goal: Reducing Crime

By Clouse, Thomas | The Spokesman-Review (Spokane, WA), December 22, 2012 | Go to article overview

POLICE FACE REORGANIZATION Chief Underlines Core Goal: Reducing Crime


Clouse, Thomas, The Spokesman-Review (Spokane, WA)


The Spokane Police Department, hoping to restore public confidence, will embark on a major reorganization next month designed to make existing resources more efficient at achieving the ultimate goal of reducing crime.

The reorganization is contained within the department's new strategic plan unveiled Friday by police Chief Frank Straub, and it comes just a day after an independent panel examining the use of force by Spokane police officers recommended 26 major changes in the department's training and internal investigations.

Some of the Use of Force Commission's recommendations, including revamping the policies and procedures and seeking accreditation, already appear in Straub's plan.

"The department has been somewhat distracted by what to do in the aftermath of the Zehm ... incident," Straub said. "If we are going to restore confidence in our police department ... we have to stay focused on our core mission, which is to reduce crime."

The chief was hired last summer by Mayor David Condon to take over a department highly criticized by federal officials for what they called an extensive cover-up of the investigation into the 2006 beating of unarmed janitor Otto Zehm. He died two days after he was struck with a baton, shocked with a Taser and hogtied by several officers.

Former Officer Karl F. Thompson Jr. was sentenced in November to 51 months in prison for using excessive force and lying to investigators. Condon said his highest priority was to restore public trust in the department following the revelations from that investigation.

To achieve that goal, Straub said he wants to add an additional sergeant to help beef up the department's Internal Affairs unit, revamp training and equip officers with body cameras.

However, Straub conceded that many of the changes he wants to bring will require the city to hire more police officers and spend more money to purchase things such as upgraded computer-aided dispatch, criminal analysis computers and software to operate the body cameras.

Condon announced Thursday that he expects by August to seek a tax increase that would help pay for those changes, as well as upgrades at the Spokane Fire Department and for programs designed to make the entire criminal justice system more efficient.

"The reality is that the chief and I are committed to having the safest city in the region," Condon said. "We want to lay the groundwork for that strategy going forward."

Straub said he's open to incorporating recommendations suggested by the Use of Force Commission, saying his strategic plan is flexible by design and will change as the department faces challenges presented by smaller budgets and newcrime trends.

Among the changes Straub announcedare an increase of officers in downtown Spokane from two to nine, including supervisors; Maj. …

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