Spokane Police Reform History

Julie Humphreys, 509.622.5868


Friday, June 26, 2020 at 6:41 p.m.


SPD highlights some of the strong work currently underway and completed toward reform

With calls for police reform at the forefront of national and local conversation, the Spokane Police Department is continually accessing its practices and policies. We have understandably received many questions about what SPD is doing and has done around police reform, including oversight, training, and culture. Provided in this release are answers to your questions noting, as United States attorney for the Eastern District of Washington, William D. Hyslop, recently stated,“

This is not the first time we’ve had this discussion in Spokane.  Significant changes in policing have already been made.  Spokane is different from some other communities where change is being debated today.  Spokane should not be swept up into a national tide of drastic change.”  “As we engage in today’s discussion about policing, our city leaders are encouraged to be educated on the work that has preceded them and the many improvements that have brought the Spokane Police Department to today’s model of professionalism and high standards of conduct.” 

“The department has made significant progress over the past several years and our officers are still the first to tell you we can be better,” Spokane Police Chief Craig Meidl said. “Our officers, from the newest to the most senior, are committed to learning and improving every day. We have made that part of our culture.”

  1. What changes and third-party evaluation has SPD undergone in recent years, both as an internal effort to continually improve and in response to community calls for reform?

In 2013, the citizen Use of Force Commission, which included Mr. Hyslop before he became U.S. Attorney, presented 26 recommendations, which have all been completed. They include; securing state accreditation, rewriting the SPD mission statement, reviewing staffing levels, updating certifications of defensive tactics instructors, improving training plans, and improving the use of force reporting system.

https://my.spokanecity.org/news/stories/2015/03/24/use-of-force-commission-work-now-complete/

In 2014, after being invited into the Spokane Police Department for a Collaborative Reform process, the United States Department of Justice COPS Office presented 42 recommendations (4 for the Office of the Police Ombudsman and 38 for the Spokane Police Department).  All 38 recommendations related to SPD were completed by 2017.

https://static.spokanecity.org/documents/police/accountability/spd-collaborative-reform-progress-report-2018.pdf

On May 18, 2015, President Obama’s Task Force on 21st Century Policing released a final report identifying best practices and offering recommendations on how policing practices can promote effective crime reduction while building public trust (http://elearning-courses.net/iacp/html/webinarResources/170926/FinalReport21stCenturyPolicing.pdf).

Contained in the report were six pillars of 21st century policing and each pillar has 7 to 15 subsections (recommendations).  SPD, on its own accord, has implemented all recommendations that pertain to a local law enforcement organization.  (see attached document)

In 2015, the Spokane Department completed the deployment of body-worn cameras to all patrol.  Currently, the majority of the police department is equipped with body-worn cameras and officers are required to turn on the cameras when engaged in law enforcement activity. The cameras help document officer actions and provide transparency.

Additionally, SPD has participated in four academic studies with partner universities. Arizona State University studied officer behavior and body-worn camera effectiveness in 2015; Washington State University engaged in counter-bias simulation and recognition study in 2016; Eastern Washington University analyzed officer contacts and race in 2017; and Gonzaga University conducted a cultural audit in 2017.

  1. What training model does SPD adopt and what training are officers provided?

The Spokane Police Department has been asked about training a “warrior” mindset.  SPD follows the training of the Washington Criminal Justice Training Commission. The mission of CJTC is “Training the Guardians of Democracy.”  The commission has promoted the guardian philosophy of law enforcement for years.  (https://www.ncjrs.gov/pdffiles1/nij/248654.pdf).  Spokane police officers are trained throughout the CJTC and after as guardians of democracy and trained in the Blue Courage philosophy (https://bluecourage.com/). 

New police officers attend one of two local police academies sanctioned by the CJTC followed by Spokane PD specific training.  All newly hired officers, lateral and entry level, are required to attend this three-week training which includes a session with a member or members of an impacted community.  Part of the training is a reminder of the department’s community policing philosophy and the Chief’s commitment to our work with the community.

Officers receive a minimum of 24 hours of training each year.  Topics of training include de-escalation training, decision-making, criminal law updates, driving refresher training, defensive tactics refresher training, and reality based training.

  1. How does SPD engage with the community and foster positive relationships with community members?

The Spokane Police Department began the Police Activities League and the Youth Police Initiative 8 years ago wherein officers and youth engage in sports and other leisure activities while spending time in meaningful conversations with the goal of building bridges between community and SPD.  These programs serve over 750 youth annually.  (https://www.youtube.com/watch?time_continue=4&v=RfrMCA6kDsw&feature=emb_logo)

Additionally, SPD is involved in; Coffee with a Cop program in local coffee shops and grocery stores, National Night Out Against Crime and Get to Know Your NRO (Neighborhood Resource Officers) programs, Crime Prevention/Situational Awareness trainings for area businesses and social service agencies, Community Court – an alternative court model for cases arising out of low-level criminal violations or quality of life crimes, connecting individuals with community resources, COP TALK (Community Outreach to Patients through Affirmative Law Enforcement Conversations ) program that focuses on de-escalation classes taught to patients at Eastern State Hospital, and more. 

Shortly after becoming Chief, Chief Meidl arranged numerous community forums in partnership with community leaders at a variety of locations to engage the community in conversation.  These forums continued into late 2017 and were eventually discontinued due to lack of community involvement. 

  1. What are some of the key tenets of SPD’s Use of force policy?

In 2019 the Spokane Police Department updated its Use of Force policy to include a De-escalation policy and an update to corresponding training.  SPD is committed to accomplishing our mission with respect and a minimal reliance on use of force by using rapport-building communication, crisis intervention, and de-escalation tactics before resorting to force, when circumstances permit. 

  1. What are the demographics of SPD?

The department continues to recruit highly qualified applicants throughout the community to include at local universities, colleges and local events.  Current demographics of the department’s commissioned officers are representative of our population; 307 males, 34 females; 306 white, 13 Hispanic/Latino, 6 African American/black, 5 Native American, 4 multi-ethic, 1 Asian and 6 other. Our current academy of 13 recruits includes two African American/black officers and four women.

  1. How is SPD viewed by outside evaluators and regulators compared to other police departments?

In February of 2019, SPD was highlighted in the Community Policing Dispatch, which is the award-winning e-newsletter for the DOJ COPS Office.  The title of this article, Spokane Police Department: Reform at its Best, highlighted SPD’s “commitment to excellence”, including “significant and permanent improvements.”  Additionally this article noted, “The SPD’s use of force training requirements exceed accreditation standards and CRI-TA (DOJ Collaborative Reform) recommendations.”  This recent article highlighted many of the achievements obtained by SPD, even years after the Collaborative Reform work concluded. https://cops.usdoj.gov/html/dispatch/02-2019/spokane_pd.html



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Media Relations Contact

Officer John O'Brien
509.835.4568
jobrien@spokanepolice.org