Bookended by two commission reports on the local justice system, 2013 made for a year of self-evaluation and reform in many ways. With a new chief at the helm of the Spokane Police Department, Spokane first received 26 recommendations from the city's Use of Force Commission and later ended the year with 43 recommendations from the Spokane County Criminal Justice Commission.
The city also suffered tragedy and controversy with the beating death of Delbert Belton drawing national attention as well as the divisive fatal shooting of Brendon Kaluza-Graham at the hand of Gail Gerlach.
Throughout the year, we at The Inlander tried to share the human voices and context behind many of those major reforms and local tragedies. With that in mind, here are 10 of the top crime and justice stories from The Inlander in 2013, in chronological order:
1. Data Cops, Feb. 5:
In a significant shift of everyday operations, the Spokane Police Department adopted the CompStat policing model, which uses data mapping and statistical analysis to assign officers to criminal "hot spots" throughout the city. It also improves communication between local agencies. But critics say the number-heavy model is open to manipulation or may lead to quotas.
2. Holding the Keys, March 12:
Spokane County Commissioners voted to take over responsibility for the overcrowded and understaffed Spokane County Jail in June, removing it from the management of the Sheriff's Office in hopes of centralizing authority to introduce new reforms and avoid budget disputes.
3. Calling For Help, May 22:
In late February, 33-year-old Christopher Parker called 911 for help and ended up dead on the floor of the Spokane County Jail. We pieced together what happened to him in his final hours. Read a recent update on the investigation into Parker's death.
4. Calculating Crime, June 12:
Taking a look at Spokane's notorious vehicle theft and property crime rates, we broke down the historic crime data to reveal that while most major cities has seen significant drops in crime rates in the past 25 years, Spokane has trended upward or held steady. We also examined how crime data has become a new focus for the SPD and public perceptions regarding crime.
5. Calculating Risks, June 25:
In this cover story, we examined the state's violent sexual predator protocols to illustrate how the system works to rehabilitate repeat sex offenders and how their victims try to cope.
6. Rolling Surveillance, July 23:
Amid rapid advances in police technology, the ACLU sounded a new warning against Automated License Plate Readers, which photograph and log time, place and registration data on hundreds of passing cars everyday. We explored how local police departments use such readers and privacy implications.
7. The Long Way Back, July 31:
After four years in prison, prosecutors dropped charges against three men previously featured in The Inlander's 2010 Injustice Project. Paul Statler, Tyler Gassman and Robert Larson finally won their freedom after being convicted in 2009 based on the word of a jailhouse snitch.
8. Long Hours, Aug. 7:
With staffing shortages and high demands for event security, the Spokane Police Department and the Spokane County Sheriff's Office have both racked up hundreds of thousands of dollars in overtime costs. Here's a look at where that money has gone and the risk of officer burnout.
9. Without A Trace, Sept. 10:
In a world of GPS, Facebook and widespread surveillance, it seems hard to imagine people still disappearing into thin air, but they do. This story explores four recent Inland Northwest cases and the heart-breaking uncertainty left by each missing loved one.
10. Our Kids, Our Problem, Oct. 1:
After the "sucker punch" heard round Spokane, we tried to cut through some of the hysteria to uncover who made up the downtown "street kid" community and what the city can do to keep streets safer for everyone, the kids included.
It was quite a busy year. I photographed everything from beekeepers trying to maintain their way of life to aviation students to a high energy fashion show. Looking at the past and glimpsing into the future, I photographed an iconic downtown sign being removed. It was later restored and replaced. Some young people struggled to figure out how to make a better future for themselves while others were busy filming their way to stardom. Spokanites went to shows, beat each other up on roller skates and saw their hometown college team ranked No. 1 for the first time. I ended the year halfway around the world at a military base, photographing the lives of our deployed service members.
Tonight's matchup against San Francisco (6 pm tipoff, televised locally on KHQ) marks the last Gonzaga men's basketball game of a memorable (mostly) 2013 for the Zags. They went to No. 1 back in March, then a few weeks later, this happened. And now they've won 11 games to finish out the 2013 portion of the 2013-14 campaign.
But here's how things stand in Zagland at the end of the calendar year. Warning — there's some bad news ahead.
Compared to other successful basketball programs, I've always felt like Gonzaga has been shockingly immune to injuries. This year, that is hardly true.
Sam Dower Jr. missed Saturday night's game after falling on his back super hard against Kansas St. He's been positive about the injury, but it's uncertain whether or not he'll be playing tonight. He's not listed as a starter — that much is sure.
Speaking of pain, Gary Bell, Jr. injured his hand on Saturday night. And now the news has gotten worse — the hand is broken and it looks like the fiery guard will be out for a while.
Kevin Pangos hasn't missed any games, but his toe is bothering him. Don't laugh. Go try to jump if your big toe hurts. It's incredibly hard and you could tell that Pangos was in pain against Santa Clara on Saturday night. After getting some medical attention, though, he returned to the game to help the Zags pull it out against the Broncos.
There was something missing from Saturday night's game in the McCarthey Center against Santa Clara. What was it? Oh yeah, the 1,200 bonkers-to-quite-bonkers undergraduates you see bouncing gleefully on one entire side of the court. It's still Christmas Break and the students won't be back for another week. And their absence is hard to miss.
Damn, was it quiet in the Kennel last week and that may have contributed to an uncharacteristically slow start for the Zags, who struggled to pull away from Santa Clara.
If you're going to the game, you might want to down a Red Bull or something before taking your seat. They need some energy. I mean, I think the loudest people in my section on Saturday were the nuns who cheered on the squad while wearing habits and everything.
THE WOMEN'S TURN
The men's team has the luxury of playing its first four conference games of the season at home. That's not the case with the women Zags, who have to play their first three games on the road.
And the time away from the Kennel didn't start off well. The Zags fell 78-79 to Saint Mary's in overtime on Friday, despite 31 points from Haiden Palmer.
"I too am really disappointed about how this all turned out, and most of all upset that so many BUB fans are upset about it. Honestly, it kind of sucks. And I'm hoping maybe this piece could explain to people why and how this happened, and that it was totally out of my hands (and BUB's paws) — BUB was being advertised and promoted as a guest before I even had responded to the request to be a part of the event."
We like to assume people read our stories in the print Inlander each week, but really we have no way to know. We can tell you which ones get the most hits online, though, and here they are. (We previously listed top searches and blog posts.)
Top print stories
1. Without a Trace: How do you find someone who disappears into thin air?
2. Writing the Next Age: Twenty years ago, Spokane’s Cyan released one of the most successful games ever. Then the story changed
3. America’s Team: Gonzaga is the top team in college basketball. How did that happen?
4. A Different Beat: The No. 1 song in America. A world tour. Overnight fame. Ryan Lewis is just getting started
5. One Love: As 16-year-old Lorissa Green lay dying, her grieving mother started a letter to the people whose lives Lorissa would forever change
6. Wonder Women: A fight about sexism in geek culture goes a lot deeper than scantily-clad superheroes
8. America’s Pastime: Phish isn’t a baseball team, but their fans sure act like they are
9. Their Own Private Idaho: How Kootenai County became “the most Republican county in the most Republican state in the nation”
10. Man vs. Wolf: Loved and hated, the gray wolf finds itself a target for hunters as advocates call for continued protection
11. Bar History: Uncovering the storied past of the Park Inn, one of Spokane’s oldest restaurants
12. Silence of the Hives: America’s honey bees are dying in droves, and colony collapse disorder is the least of our worries
13. Our Kids, Our Problem: Who are Spokane’s “street kids” and what do they need?
14. Born This Way: A Spokane Valley kid turns heads with his image and inspires people around the globe
15. Trail of Questions: A University of Idaho freshman wanders out of town and never returns
Top stories from previous years
Some of the stories with the most page views in 2013 were written as long ago as 2011. It didn’t seem fair to put them in the regular rankings, so here are the top posts from previous years:
1. Blood Money: In lean times, people tap a renewable resource: their own plasma
2. Guy Fieri Eats Spokane: Behind the scenes of Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives: Inland Northwest edition
3. The People Left Behind: When a 13-year-old dies, a whole community is left searching for answers
4. Back on the Block: Why last month’s spa raids may put more prostitutes on the street
5. The Meat Grinder: When the debt-collection machine comes for its pound of flesh
Each week we print For Your Consideration, a feature where we take turns telling you about worthwhile stuff we’ve been reading, watching, listening to, etc. Now we’re trying the inverse: Each Monday we have a single topic with recommendations from several Inlander staffers. Read previous posts here.
With local indie-rock band Cathedral Pearls on some sort of (hopefully not permanent) hiatus as two of its members launch the city's newest music venue, The Bartlett, I've been counting on Spotify to get my fix. So when I heard that CP member Max Harnishfeger had started his own electronic project, Water Monster, I was eager to check it out. In a house show environment at the last Collect Secret Show, Harnishfeger played an all acoustic set — "put the beats in your head," he told us — which was dazzling in its own right, but I soon went searching for the full sound. There's only one Water Monster song on Soundcloud, "Take Me Back (Demo)," but the distortion, Harnishfeger's haunting vocals and, yes, "the beats" have been perfect for these foggy winter days.
— HEIDI GROOVER
For the past few weeks, the new album from Portland-based Typhoon has dominated my headphones. Released in August, White Lighter combines a songwriter's intimacy with the soaring dynamics of a symphony. Frontman Kyle Morton traces a thin line through mortality and heartache while the 10 other band members — using a wide array of percussion, keyboards, horns and other instruments — push the melodies into grand, sweeping arrangements of thunder and catharsis. I first heard Morton while listening to this excellent recording of "Atlantic City" on an online album of Springsteen covers. The song is a duet between Morton and Danielle Sullivan of Wild Ones. Lucky for Spokane, both Typhoon and Wild Ones have shows scheduled at The Bartlett in the coming month. So give them a listen.
While I was searching through Typhoon's label, Tender Loving Empire, for more music, I also recently stumbled upon The Weather Machine, whose song "Back O'er Oregon" can be pretty addicting. The six-piece Portland folk group put out a debut, self-titled album earlier this year with some catchy arrangements and entertaining songs about undead skeleton kings. They've recently started working on a second album, but for now just squirrel "Back O'er Oregon" away for your next West Coast roadtrip.
— JACOB JONES
There are albums you like, and there are albums you can leave playing continuously in the car for multiple months without going crazy or even really thinking about swapping it out. The new Marshall McLean Band CD, Glossolalia, is the latter. Last week we briefly poked around on the radio looking for Christmas tunes, and that’s when I realized we’d been idly listening to Glossolalia pretty much every minute on the road since mid-November. And you know what? All that repetition mostly makes me feel sorry for anyone driving across some frozen, scrubby stretch of the Inland Northwest without listening to it.
— LISA WAANANEN
We all know the romantic feeling that accompanies discovering an epic new (to you) band/artist, and then said band’s work becomes your favorite, go-to music to listen to 24/7, for 3-plus months. Your spirits are instantly lifted when you hear one of their songs, and down the road, whenever you hear them you’re transported back to the 3-month period when they were all you listened to. That’s exactly what happened to me when I discovered Future Islands. They’re not a new band by any stretch (the group’s members originally started making music together back in 2003), but in today’s oversaturated world of online music discovering new sound is easy and challenging all at once. The Baltimore-based synth pop outfit is everything I love in music — catchy hooks, pounding rhythms, belting vocals and swelling synths. Not to mention that I have a softness for untraditional-sounding male vocalists (in the style of the Decemberists’ Colin Meloy, Modest Mouse’s Isaac Brock, Cold War Kids’ Nathan Willett, etc.), and Future Island frontman Samuel T. Herring’s rich, sometimes nasally, other times gravelly, bellow fits the bill perfectly in my mind. Start out with Future Island’s most recent record (2011), On the Water, which includes the memorable tracks “Balance” and “Give Us the Wind.”
— CHEY SCOTT
His new album doesn't come out here until Feb. 11, but Neil Finn had my undivided attention as 2013 came to an end. For close to 40 years, the pride of Te Awamutu, New Zealand, has been a standard-bearer for thoughtful, literate pop that's anything but disposable as a member of Split Enz and Crowded House, through collaborations with older brother/Enz founder Tim and numerous side projects, and for the past 15 years as a solo artist. Dizzy Heights, his first solo effort in more than a decade, continues a long tradition of bittersweet, offbeat songwriting, featuring otherworldly melodies and harmonies and hooks that move into your head and take up residence. Live and studio versions of more than half of the album's 11 tracks have surfaced online; so far, the highlight is "White Lies and Alibis," a gorgeous, wistful five minutes of simple, orchestral pop that stands with the best work this Kiwi icon has ever released.
— MICHAEL MAHONEY
Even though it’s not quite the end of the year, we’ll go ahead and call it anyway — here are the Inlander blog posts with the most hits in 2013. Popularity doesn’t necessarily correspond with quality, but it’s still interesting to see what other people are reading. (We previously listed top searches; we’ll do top print stories next.)
Top blog posts
You can see the posts that got the most online comments here.