Monday, December 24, 2012

Celebrating Christmas in jail

Posted By on Mon, Dec 24, 2012 at 12:24 PM

Hopefully, you won't be spending Christmas Eve in the drunk tank, but if some spiked eggnog lands you in the slammer it might be nice to know the Spokane County Jail puts on a pretty good holiday spread.

When asked how inmates celebrate Christmas in jail, Lt. Phillip Tyler with the Sheriff's Office Detention Services says cooks will be preparing a special Yuletide meal for its approximately 600 jail inmates.

Tyler lists quite the feast: Turkey, ham, mashed potatoes, gravy (from scratch), mixed vegetables, dinner rolls (from scratch) and pie (also from scratch).

"Almost like home," he says.

Jail Chaplain Roger Swift also plans to conduct "at the cell" religious services, Tyler says, for inmates wishing to observe the holiday behind bars.

"Detention Services understands the importance of trying to create an environment that, if only for a brief period, allows our inmates some of the comforts of the holidays," he says, adding, "within the constraints of jail safety and security." 

The Spokane County Jail Ministries also sponsors Project Hope, which provides Christmas gifts to the children of incarcerated inmates. Tyler says many children of inmates do not receive Christmas gifts as they struggle with absent parents during the holidays.

He notes the gift program operates without any costs to taxpayers.

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Friday, December 21, 2012

Police chief hopes to move headquarters downtown

Posted By on Fri, Dec 21, 2012 at 3:35 PM


On the heels of two new reports on police reform, Spokane Police Chief Frank Straub says he would like to move the departments police headquarters into downtown within the next year or two.

Were having discussions to make that happen, the chief says. Whether I can make that happen in 2013, I dont know, but well certainly move to get that done as quickly as we can.

Straub, who took over the department this fall, recently announced several command structure changes at the department. The reorganization shifts several command divisions, but also adds another seven Neighborhood Conditions Officers to the downtown area.

The downtown core makes up the economic and cultural heart of the Inland Northwest, Straub says. He believes moving the headquarters downtown would provide a more embedded police presence to help facilitate community engagement and promote public safety.

That, I think, is critically important, he says, speaking after a briefing downtown. Eventually, Id like to move police headquarters over here ... downtown.

Straub did not discuss details of the potential move, but explained the department had already looked at sites appropriate for housing a downtown headquarters.

There is a location that were looking at now that seems more central to the downtown, he says, which will allow us to move maybe some significant operations there.

News archives show the Spokane Police Department combined operations within its current home in the Public Safety Building in 1970. Law enforcement officials later opposed a city proposal in 1986 to move the police administration into City Hall, saying it would disrupt communication and department collaboration.

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Go push the magic Christmas button

Posted By on Fri, Dec 21, 2012 at 3:11 PM


Staff writer Leah Sottile pushed the button. She felt the magic.

Step 1: Go to 518 W. Riverside Ave.

Step 2: Push the button.

Step 3: Feel the magic.

Hint: one scenario.

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Few cited under new panhandling ordinance

Posted By on Fri, Dec 21, 2012 at 1:54 PM

You remember the city's new panhandling ordinance — the one that promised more safety and fewer panhandlers downtown, and took some heat from fill-the-boot style fundraisers.

The law went into effect in October, but isnt gaining much traction. According to data from Spokane Municipal Court, only two tickets have been written this year for solicitation in the roadway, the category under which the new law falls.

Officer Wayne Downing, a downtown neighborhood resource officer, says its hard to catch panhandlers in the act of stepping into the street because they know to be on the lookout for cops. Downing says hes given warnings for first-time offenses, but hasnt ticketed anyone.

As frequently as it happens, its often not observed by law enforcement, he says. Unless its in our presence, theres not much action we can take.

The law, brought to City Council in August and put into effect in October, allows people to stand on the sidewalk and ask for money, but prohibits them from stepping into downtown streets (to take money from a car window, for example). The proposal initially applied to the whole city, but after outcries from groups like the Spokane Guilds School — which runs a penny drive in the street each year — it was whittled down to the downtown core.  

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GOOD READS: Newtown, end-times and an avalanche story that will blow your mind

Posted By on Fri, Dec 21, 2012 at 12:27 PM

Welcome back to the GOOD READS blog. Each week, Inlander staffers share five-ish of our favorite stories in hopes you'll love them too. Use them to speed up your Friday afternoon, or bookmark them for your morning coffee over the weekend. Then let us know what you think. Love 'em? Hate 'em? Read anything great lately?

1. "Teachers sought to soothe children in moments of terror" (Eli Saslow//Washington Post)  

Perhaps the most visceral telling of the Sandy Hook massacre yet.

2. "Snow Fall" (John Branch//New York Times)

The gripping story of the avalanche at Tunnel Creek, paired with gorgeous multimedia and graphics.

3. "'They were not thinking of him as a human being'" (Jim Morris//Center for Public Integrity)

When one man is severely burned on a factory job, his employers don't call 911. It takes 98 minutes to get him to a hospital. His story highlights the struggles of temporary workers, who are rarely protected and easily replaced.

4. "The Overly Documented Life" (A.J. Jacobs//Esquire)

A guy spends nine weeks with a camera recording everything he does, then writes about how it changed him.

5. "The Vissarion Christ" (Anna Nemtsova//Newsweek)

A look inside Russia's end-times cults.

Still reading? More good stories over here.  

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CAT FRIDAY: Christmas Cats Edition

Posted By on Fri, Dec 21, 2012 at 11:56 AM

Christmas can be a joyful time of year, especially if you're a cat. The humans bring in a big, fluffy green climbing tower/secret hideout into the house and decorate it with all kinds of shiny, moving things that look a lot like toys. Then there's the wrapping of presents -- bows, ribbons, crinkly tissue paper and boxes! What cat doesn't enjoy the fun those things can create?!

Just be warned, kitties, your human might get some wild hair up their ass and decides to dress you up in a Santa suit or some other hideous holiday ensemble... Don't tell them you got this idea from us, but you could get your revenge by climbing the Christmas tree and "accidentally" knocking off a few special ornaments along the way up. Oops!

Meowy Christmas!

Is that not the cutest version of Santa you've ever seen?!


The elf costume on the kitty on the left is very fitting. 


Someone better invite this little guy to their ugly sweater party.


And this pair... 


What do you mean, Santa isn't real?! 


Kittens make cute Christmas tree decorations.


You better make the dog do this, too, human.


This seductive cat wants to be your Santa this year...


This kitty is stealing Santa's milk and cookies.


Merry Christmas, we got you a cat! 


Eff you, Santa, for not getting me the toys I asked for! (This kitty belongs to this Inlander writer.)


Wrapped cat hopes he doesn't have to stay wrapped for very long. 


The neighborhood crazy cat lady's Christmas card photo. 


This cat also wants to go to your ugly sweater party. 


These kitties are too fancy for ugly sweater parties. 


This cat is Jewish, and celebrates Hanukkah.  


These cats prefer to celebrate both holidays.


Someone must have just broken the news to these kitties that Santa's not real...


This kitten is terrified of Santa. Who could blame him?  


This kitty is really sorry. He thought the tree was a giant scratching post. 


The beard is real, okay?


When you wrap a cat, it's important not to forget the tail. 


Nom nom nom. 


Christmas lights can make a really warm napping place. 


Does this sweater make me look fat? 


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Read the full text of this morning's NRA press conference

Posted By on Fri, Dec 21, 2012 at 11:06 AM


The National Rifle Association finally spoke out today, one week after the Newtown, Conn., elementary school shooting, and they had plenty to say.

After a brief rant blaming the news media for giving shooters too much attention, and film and video game makers for glorifying violence, the group's executive vice president, Wayne LaPierre, called for armed guards in every school in the nation. We protect celebrities, politicians and banks with guns, he reasoned, and should do the same for schools. 

"Now, I can imagine the shocking headlines you'll print tomorrow morning: 'More guns,' you'll claim, 'are the NRA's answer to everything!'" he told a room of reporters and a few protesters. "Your implication will be that guns are evil and have no place in society, much less in our schools. But since when did the word 'gun' automatically become a bad word?"

Here's the full transcript:

NRA Transcript PDF

And here is a roundup of the NRA's history and its responses to recent school shootings.

Locally, some people have called for the same action. On Tuesday, the Bonner County Republican Central Committee passed a resolution urging Bonner County schools to train and arm employees, the Bonner County Daily Bee reported. According to Idaho law, "a person or an employee of the school or school district who is authorized to carry a firearm with the permission of the board of trustees of the school district or the governing board" may do so on school property.

Over the weekend, a few Pittsburgh schools got permission to arm guards, generating some local chatter over on KHQ. Nationwide, about 23,200 schools had armed security staff in the '09-'10 school year, The New York Times reports.

But, as discussion of the idea spreads, some are pointing out that Columbine High School had an armed community resource officer on duty the day of the shooting there and that the effects of armed guards haven't been studied much.

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Spokane police chief announces department restructuring as part of five-year plan

Posted By on Fri, Dec 21, 2012 at 10:36 AM


Spokane Police Chief Frank Straub announced this morning a significant reorganization of the police department as part of his five-year strategic plan to improve cooperation between each division and refocus officers on the prevention of crime.

After years of scandal and distraction, Straub says the Spokane Police Department must move the right people into the right places to form a new foundation around the core mission of preventing and solving crime. He stressed the importance of releasing the Strategic Plan before the start of 2013.

"This way the department will know, the community will know, come January we're hitting the ground running and this is the direction we're going," he says.

The Strategic Plan includes several goals and procedural changes to introduce over the next five years. Those goals include implementing body cameras, achieving state accreditation, expanding community policing efforts, sending officers through crisis intervention training and encouraging cooperation with the public.

"The focus of the 2013 Strategic Plan is to better align the Spokane Police Department to meet the demands of our mission," the plan states, "to prevent and reduce crime, improve the quality of life for our residents and visitors, and to do so with integrity, accountability, and transparency."

Straub says he has already started reshaping divisions by promoting people into new positions across a broader-based command structure. Those changes include moving crime analysis to the same division as field operations to improve communication, as well as shifting tactical and neighborhood operations under a single strategic operations division.

"In the past, the Spokane Police Department has relied on a traditional, vertical organizational structure, with separate bureaus designed around specific functions," the plan states. "In reality, however, most police work takes place laterally, moving across different units that are serving a common purpose."

The chief has moved Internal Affairs and Public Information under his office, with plans to eventually hire a civilian communications director. The assistant chief will oversee community outreach, organizational development and other operations. Straub says additional changes will help divisions share intelligence and collaborate on tracking crime patterns.

"Our goal now is every day we're going to open up the day with the discussion of crime," he says. "We can't have a situation where crime keeps going up."

Other initiatives focus on community involvement and internal efficiency. Straub says the plan is the first step in an ongoing evaluation and conversation about how the department can improve.

"That's the beginning of the discussion to move forward and I think you evaluate it constantly," he says. "Are we meeting our marks and are these the right marks to be meeting? It's a fluid document. It's a document that's meant to be a living document."

Like the Use of Force Commission report issued yesterday, Straub notes the need for additional funding to pay for additional staffing and updated equipment. The chief says the department had 300 officers in 2004. Now that staffing is down to 273, which he described as "too little."

"I would like to have closer to 300," he says.

Overall, Straub says he hopes the plan will clarify the department's mission and provide a framework for future improvement efforts.

"We will work diligently to ensure our members are accountable to each other and the community we serve, and act in accordance with our values," the plan states. "Over the next five years, the Spokane Police Department will become a model of policing in the Pacific Northwest, as well as a model of excellence for the police profession."

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MORNING BRIEF: Use of force, the NRA and the end of the world

Posted By on Fri, Dec 21, 2012 at 8:46 AM


A new Catholic Charities apartment building opened to take in the chronically homeless. More on what that means here. (SR, Bloglander)  

School districts across North Idaho announced they'd be closed today after rumors of violent threats were spreading. None of the threats have been substantiated, police say. (KXLY) 

The Use of Force Commission released its report yesterday, recommending cultural and procedural changes at SPD. (Bloglander) 


As Washington and Colorado figure out the details of legalizing pot, California is treating it as if it were legal anyway. (NYT)

President Obama is set to nominate John Kerry for secretary of state today. (WashPo) 

The NRA held a press conference this morning, the first time it's spoken since last Friday's Connecticut school massacre, blaming the media and video games in part for mass shootings. (WSJ) 


You survived the Mayan apocalypse. Here are some other end of world theories to look forward to. (NPR) 

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Thursday, December 20, 2012

Police commission recommends cultural, procedural changes

Posted By on Thu, Dec 20, 2012 at 6:10 PM

A highly anticipated report from the city's Use of Force Commission released today recommends the Spokane Police Department make several cultural and operational changes to embrace new conflict de-escalation techniques, improve transparency and modernize practices.

Established early this year to provide independent analysis on police reform, the commission submitted a lengthy draft report Thursday afternoon, listing 26 different ways to reshape the police department. The recommendations vary widely with some seeking a more clearly defined mission while others ask for procedural changes. 

Commission Chair Earl Martin says one of the key recommendations encourages the department to move toward a culture of de-escalation where officers focus on talking their way out of confrontations instead of overcoming opposition with physical force.

"It is critically important that SPD officers are prepared not just to win the conflict," the report states, "but also to avoid such in the first place."

In addition to procedural changes, Martin says the department struggles with depleted patrol personnel as well as insufficient or outdated equipment. He says the department will need additional funding from the city to make some of the recommended improvements.

"A community cannot have a great police force on the cheap," he says. "The Spokane Police Department is a department in need of resources."

Spokane Police Chief Frank Straub says he had just a brief opportunity to "skim" the report upon its release Thursday. From his first glance, Straub says he expects many of the recommendations to line up with the 2013 Strategic Plan he is scheduled to release Friday morning.

"I think what you're going to see in the strategic plan is a lot of the same language," Straub says, adding, "From what I heard, I would agree with many of the the statements [the commission] made."

Martin says he respects the professionalism of many officers at the department, but he feels the force still lacks a clear sense of purpose. Along with rewriting the mission statement, the commission suggests the department train its officers to take a more progressive approach to defusing volatile confrontations.

"[The] SPD should ensure that it adopts a certified de-escalation training program with measurable outcomes," the recommendation states, "that both impresses upon its officer the obligation to do everything in their power to de-escalate potentially violent situations and prepares them to use de-escalation techniques, when appropriate and feasible, to reduce the need for force."

Several of the other recommendations suggest:

• Give the Police Ombudsman the authority to "open and conduct independent investigations concerning the operations, actions, or omissions of the SPD."

• Equip officers with body cameras.

• Make negotiations with the Spokane Police Guild more transparent. Do the same with the Spokane Police Lieutenants and Captains Association.

• Review patrol officer staffing levels to ensure sufficient staffing to maintain public safety.

• Expand what is considered a "use of force" incident and improve the reporting system.

The commission had expected to release a report this past summer, but encountered several delays leading up to Thursday's announcement. Martin says the extra time allowed the commission to receive more input from legal consultants.

Martin says the report is still a draft and he hopes public feedback will help improve the final document before it is submitted to the Mayor's Office. The commission will continue to accept public comment until Jan. 30. Comments can be emailed to [email protected]

Draft Report of the City of Spokane Use of Force Commission
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