Who Polices The Spokane Police?
Updated On: Apr 15 2011 08:55:28 AM CDT
Who's policing our police? It's a question many have asked in light of a series of recent officer involved shootings.
After each of the shootings police urge the public to cooperate with them, saying no one gets hurt by cooperating with police.
But what about when an officer does something wrong?
65-year-old Tom Hudson has law enforcement experience; back in the 1980s he was a reserve deputy in San Bernadino County, California, which is why he was so upset with what happened when he tried to report a crime to a Spokane police officer.
Hudson says he witnessed two crimes on January 28. The first happened on his way to the mall, where he saw a "gang banger type guy" knock the window out of a car with his elbow. About a block away from the car break-in Hudson says he spotted a police car.
"I turned my lights on, I was going about 20 miles an hour for protocol, stopped the vehicle I got outside the door, walked up to the front of my car and stood there with my hands to my side," Hudson said.
He says Spokane Police Corporal Jon Strickland responded by getting out of his patrol car with his gun drawn.
"He had it face level and he was shaking and I said what are you doing? I said I'm reporting a crime in progress and the officer said to me 'You're a stupid ass'," Hudson said.
It was at that point Hudson says he told Corporal Strickland he is a retired officer and a minister.
"He said 'Let me see some ID' and I reached behind and took out my wallet and showed him my badge," Hudson said.
Then, as Hudson reached for his phone, Strickland got back in his patrol car and drove off. That's when he reported what he calls the second crime he witnessed that day.
"I called 911 he said what are you reporting and I said assault with a deadly weapon by a peace officer," Hudson said.
And after a two month internal affairs investigation, Spokane police found that Corporal Strickland did "behave in a less than courteous manner."
"Apparently he used an adjective describing the man's behavior that was unsavory, so he was disciplined for that language," Spokane Police Officer Tim Moses said.
Strickland's side of the story is different than Hudson's version of events. He says Hudson was going 10 to 15 miles over the speed limit as he approached and was "concerned with Hudson's approach to his vehicle" because "he was aware that in the preceding week 11 police officers in the nation had been shot."
As far as drawing his weapon against Hudson, Internal Affairs found it was not a policy violation.
"Tactically we're very cautious about behavior like that but its a warning sign to us. We're getting shot at in our cars, we're getting shot at in our police stations, we're getting shot at walking up to homes where people call us to come to their home to help them,"
In recent years, Spokane Police Internal Affairs investigations have increased steadily. In 2006 there were 33 investigations. Last year the department saw 79 investigations. "It's hard to say if IAs have gone up with the current trend with officer involved shootings or whether its because we have an ombudsman, people are more comfortable approaching the ombudsman," former Internal Affairs Lieutenant Craig Meidl said.
Of the 33 complaints in 2006, 20 resulted in discipline. Last year only 9 of the 79 cases involved discipline.
To put the number of complaints in perspective, in 2009 officers responded to about 135,000 calls and out of all those calls there just 78 investigations.
As for Corporal Strickland, he was punished with counseling from his shift sergeant, which wasn't enough to satisfy Tom Hudson.
"I'm 65-years-old, I've had two heart attacks and two strokes and this little episode gave me chest pains for two days, nightmares," Hudson said.
"We're out here doing a tough job, we're out here doing the best we can with what we've got, but sometimes we're human beings, simple as that, we make mistakes and we get called in the carpet for it," Moses said.
So far this year the incident involving Corporal Strickland has been the only sustained complaint. Hudson says he's not satisfied with the punishment in his case but he has no intention of taking the case any further.
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