Spokane Police Abuses: Past to Present

The People of Spokane vs. Law Enforcement Abuse, Impunity, Corruption, and Cover-up

Urgent Call: Goetz to Guide Public in Gentil Chat with Chief Kirkpatrick

Posted by Arroyoribera on September 17, 2007

Chief Kirkpatrick’s Invitation to Chat/Forum on Human Rights (click to open PDF file)

Jim Camden’s 9/17/07 article about the Chat/Forum on Human Rights

Jill Wagner’s Out on the Town blog column on the Chat/Forum on Human Rights


I have problems from several angles with the Chief’s letter, Jim Camden’s article, and the “Chat/Forum” scheduled for the City Council Chambers on Wednesday, September 19, at 7 p.m., in the lower level of the City Hall, 808 W. Spokane Falls Blvd.

First, I am guessing it will be neither Chat nor Forum.

Second, Jim Camden’s article makes it sound as if the invitation and event are specifically for the July 4 Riverfront Park demonstrators. A quote from Camden article today states, “Spokane Police Chief Anne Kirkpatrick is inviting protesters from the July 4 Riverfront Park demonstration to a chat Wednesday to discuss human rights”.

Actually, the letter is addressed to “Dear Citizen” and refers to the “the community” and “the public”. The side bar in the Spokesman review article says, “The Spokane Police Department has invited protesters involved in the July 4 demonstration at Riverfront Park. There will be a moderator from the Spokane Human Rights Commission, and the public is invited to attend.” I am not sure if the language “the public is invited to attend” is that of the Spokesman-Review or that of the Spokane Police. Nevertheless, the chief’s letter neither specifically invites July 4 protesters /free assembly advocates nor does it specifically invite the public.

Perhaps someone is hoping to frame Chief Kirkpatrick’s September 19 event as an invitation to the July 4 demonstrators, either for police P.R. purposes or maybe in hopes of a better news story. Or perhaps someone is hoping to create a spectacle, a la provocateurs, infiltrators, spies, CoIntelPro, etc. A la Jason Oakley or maybe just the SPD’s own internal dirty tricks squad.

My concerns about the framing of Kirkpatrick’s event have to do with some knowledge of who received her letter. I got the same letter from Chief Kirkpatrick even though I was not a July 4 protester. In fact, I wasn’t even in the park on July 4. On top of that, the letter the Chief sent out makes no mention of July 4th or protesters.

So who else got the letter? I spoke to a friend who was at the July 9 city council meeting at which dozens of people waited nearly 6 hours to speak one minute each about their experience in the park on July 4 or–for those not in the park on the 4th like myself–to speak about civil liberties and police abuse. This friend received Chief Kirkpatrick’s invitation letter. Like me, he too was not one of the July 4 arrestees. However, unlike me, he was in the park on the 4th and witnessed the police attack on protesters. So, unless the police used their extensive surveillance and photographing of park-goers that day to form a data base which the Chief then accessed for her letter, that is not how my friend’s name got on the Chief’s mailing list.

My friend, I and a few dozen other recipients of the letter have one thing in common–we signed up to speak at the July 9 City Council meeting. My friend believes that City Council sign-up list is the source of at least some of the recipients of Chief Kirkpatrick’s letter. His reason for believing that is because he intentionally signed up to speak at the City Council meeting that night with a variation of his name and that is the name in which he received the letter from Chief Kirkpatrick.

So I am guessing Chief Kirkpatrick had her people gather up sign-up lists, meeting attendance lists, and perhaps even organizational membership lists before she sent out her letter. Wouldn’t one presume that a “Dear Citizen” letter, sent to invite Spokanites to discuss their concerns and make suggestions on how the SPD can better serve the community, would also be sent to numerous groups, such as Neighborhood Councils and civic organizations? Wouldn’t she have also sent it to the some 20 members of the City’s Police Advisory Committee (26 members if you include its 6 police staff people) and the Citizen’s Advisory Commission, sidelined but still existent.

So then, how did the Chief’s September 19 Chat/Forum get framed as it did in the Spokesman-Review as “The Spokane Police Department has invited protesters involved in the July 4 demonstration at Riverfront Park. There will be a moderator from the Spokane Human Rights Commission, and the public is invited to attend.” A rather odd characterization and framing of the event. My guess is that the author of the S-R article and the Chief or someone from her office had a conversation which impacted that characterization of the September 19 event.

Third, it is important to know something about the history leading up to this Wednesday’s forum/chat. The July 2007 Spokane Human Rights Commission meeting was held at the ARC of Spokane. There were no signs on the doors about a meeting (until I—a non-member of the SHRC–made one and put it up). All the doors where locked. And, as it turns out, the 5 or so members of the Commission (they have since added a few more) did not expect anyone from the public to show up. In fact, they didn’t even think the public knew they were meeting. Some of us showed up because we heard the mayor was supposed to have been at that meeting and we had heard the Chief of Police would be there also. However, neither showed up. I don‘t remember what line we were given exactly on their no show status, but they didn’t show. So, in their absence, some of us let the Commission know our views: that they have become irrelevant and are non-players in the current debate on police violence, human rights, etc. You may recall the Spokane Human Rights Commission was purged and decapitated only a few years ago. Like the Citizens Review Commission, the Spokane Human Rights Commission has been marginalized and eviscerated.

What then is the September 19 event event? The letter says it explicitly: “Come prepared to voice your opinions on tolerance, diversity, respect, and dignity in interactions between police officers and the public”. In other words, we are all one big happy Spokane family so let’s talk about why we are on the same team.

What is the format? You know because you have seen it before. Again the chief says so in her letter: “Ask questions. We’ll do our best to answer them”.

And what are the rules? You know because you have seen it before. The Chief writes: “We ask that you follow only one rule: To act within the bounds of civility and respect. We’ll do the same, and the meeting will be valuable and rewarding”. Thanks, Chief. Got that everyone–the meeting will be valuable and rewarding, signed Chief Kirkpatrick.

[By the way, I am guessing the Chief might not be reading the not-so-civil or respectful interactions of Dan (Officer Torok) and JR (Officer Russell)  or “Kevin” (Sgt. Jim Faddis) on posts at Spokesman-Review blogs such as Hard 7, News as a Conversation, The Falls, and Out on the Town, among others.]

And of course we will hear the same statement at the beginning of the night (or soon after) from the Chief telling us that she can’t discuss any cases which are still open or subject to litigation. So forget Zehm, forget Fitzpatrick, forget Shonto Pete, forget Josh Levy, forget, well, just plain forget about it.

This was KREM, for example, reporting on the Levy matter, “Kirkpatrick said that the taser probes missed the man. She did not allow the press to ask questions since the case is still under investigation.”

And of course, Alberto Gonzalez on his June 27 visit to Spokane shared “top secret, sensitive” information with law enforcement so that is off limits also.

I am guessing Chief Kirpatrick will bring a few side-kicks–you know, brass. A couple captains, maybe a major. So don’t think the meeting will be entirely without entertainment value. We might even get the Police Guild president to provide the Guild’s disclaimers and caveats and spins, as he did at the ACLU forum in February at Gonzaga.

How will the meeting run? Chief Kirkpatrick says in her letter, “We’ll have a great facilitator for this meeting, Terry Goetz of the City’s Human Rights Commission”. Really? I don’t know. Terry is a nice guy, a graduate of Leadership Spokane, Vice President for Employment/Employee Relations at Washington Trust bank, et cetera. But is he a great facilitator? His Human Rights Commission — barely staffed and barely functioning — has effectively been a non-player to-date in the last few years of scandal in city government, community dialog, and the police. But maybe this is Goetz and the Chief’s plan for rehabilitating the SHRC. An e-mail he sent out after the July 2007 SHRC meeting suggests that.

I do hope, however, that Terry gets a little more ambitious than the plan he announced at the July 2007 HRC meeting to revise the Human Rights Commission complaint form before the next two years are up. In fact, if I could just ask here: Terry, could the people of Spokane have the revised Human Right Commission complaint form by Thanksgiving? Of 2007? Doesn’t sound unreasonable to folks with whom I’ve spoken.

Of course, “the Chief” says she wants as many people to speak as possible so, she writes, “we will all need to get right to the point”. In other words, those who may have a bone to pick or a criticism or (God forbid in this democracy) a statement to make, will have to be herded by the moderator into the corral of “You’re question please, mama…do you have a question, ma’am…ma’am, your question…ma’am we are going to have to ask you to let someone else who has a question speak, ma’am”. (And for those of you who simply don’t understand the rules on free speech in this country, more than a few tasers WILL be present, so don’t say you weren’t warned).

And the Spokane Police Guild? Well, negotiations are going on with the Guild over their contract so, let me go ahead and summarize Chief Kirkpatrick’s comments on that topic in advance: “No comment”.

So Chief Kirkpatrick–lawyer, police chief, and lecturer that she is–is prepared to dazzle us in a performance which as of this moment is being billed in several ways–forum, chat, circus, protester dialog, hocus-pocus.

If you come out of Wednesday’s meeting feeling you’ve been buffaloed, well, you’re talking to the police, so what did you expect.

So in conclusion, what CAN we expect:

Anyone who was at the ACLU sponsored forums on Police Accountability early this year—especially when Chief Kirkpatrick was a presenter–will have a pretty good idea what the model is. They–the experts–are the experts. We–the people–are the people. We will ask, they will answer. You know, the dominant paradigm. If things go as they plan and structure it, then we, the people, will ask narrowly proscribed questions without making statements and they, the experts, will provide us either even more narrowly proscribed answers or broad non-specific answers while making any statements they feel necessary to disarm, dazzle, hoodwink, sidestep, discredit or cast aspersions. Then they will tell us that we had our “Chat/Forum” with the Chief and they–the powers that be–can get back to governing by their own consent.

So remember: If we, the people, come out of the September 19, 2007 chat/forum with Chief Kirkpatrick scratching our heads, it is only because our heads itch, not because we just had the wool pulled over our eyes.

Gently, of course.

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