Friday, July 15, 2016

Spokane County Jail inmates no longer on lockdown 23 hours a day

Posted By on Fri, Jul 15, 2016 at 2:19 PM

  • Young Kwak Photo

For the first time in 15 years, most of the inmates in the Spokane County Jail are allowed out of their cells with access to books, TV, showers, the phone, games and the rec room. All floors except 6 West, which holds maximum security inmates, and the all-female floor, are now on direct supervision. 

"The research is very clear that the direct supervision model creates a safer environment inside jails and prisons," says Jacquie van Wormer, criminal justice administrator for the Spokane Regional Law and Justice Council. "There is less stress, less grievances, less serious incidents, less infractions when you have that sort of a system."

Direct supervision is an inmate management strategy where corrections officers interact directly and continuously with inmates to deter problematic behavior.

The change comes after negotiations between the corrections officers' union and jail administration cleared the way for officers to work at both the county jail and Geiger Corrections Center, says jail director John McGrath. 

Previously, corrections officers weren't allowed to float between the two facilities, which created inmate-to-officer ratios that made it unsafe for inmates to be out of their cells most of the day. 

"The population has been kind of stagnant," McGrath says. "So with that we were able to look at current bed space and break down classification levels. We had an abundance of minimum security inmates that we could then relocate to Geiger if we were to send more staff members out there to supervise them." 

The jail's return to direct supervision was also called out among recommendations from the National Institute of Corrections, a federal agency within the Department of Justice. 

NIC's other recommendations touch on policy and procedure revisions, the inmate classification process, healthcare and sanitation. Here are a few highlights: 

• "Ensure that inmates with urgent medical or mental health concerns receive timely health assessments at the jail and/or transferred to the emergency room for these assessments. Within 14 days after the admission to the Spokane Correctional Facility all inmates should receive a health assessment." 

• "Ensure that discharge reports on inmates released to the jail from outside hospitals accompany the inmate to the jail and are immediately provided to the jail medical staff for their immediate review. Similarly, ensure that facility medical information connected with SHUTTLE inmates accompany the inmate to the Spokane County Jail and are reviewed by health care staff." 

• "Improve levels of sanitation throughout the facility. Set and enforce expectation for appropriate levels of sanitation through training of staff and inmates and routine internal inspections." 

• "Continue with refurbishing of housing units. Some units, which have not been recently refurbished are in need of cleaning, painting and repair/replacement of furnishing fixtures." 

• "Provide ongoing specialized training in high risk/liability areas including suicide prevention, managing inmates and mental illness, etc."

• "Work with the union to ensure flexibility in determining when, and if, a second officer is required to be assigned to a housing unit. It is not uncommon, given the proper tools and support, for a housing unit officer in more recently constructed facilities to effectively manage 64-72 inmates in a direct supervision environment." 

Van Wormer says the improvements also come as a result of jail administration's reliance on data and commitment to reducing overcrowding, a requirement of the $1.75 million grant from the MacArthur Foundation

"I think the jail has really improved over the last few years with their use of data, their offender management system and thinking about needed changes through a data lens," she says. "This is a prime example. This happened because of data analysis."

When it was first constructed, the Spokane County Jail was intended to be a direct supervision facility with a 1 to 46 ratio of guards to inmates. With staff shortages and an inmate population constantly pushing past the 462 inmates it was originally designed to hold and past the 188 additional beds added later, inmates were kept locked in their cells almost the entire day on weekdays and were on lockdown all weekend.

"This makes life easier for the officers," McGrath says. "They can interact with the inmates and see how they interact with others. They have more access to normalcy where they can watch the news or go to their cells and take a nap." 
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Rounding up the weirdest headlines from the past week of Pokémon Go madness

Posted By on Fri, Jul 15, 2016 at 1:44 PM


Since its launch last week, the entire world has been utterly transfixed by the new phenomenon that is Pokémon Go.

Here at the Inlander, we headed out to meet Spokane's huge fanbase of players, easy to spot all over town with phones held in front of them, taking pictures of imaginary beings unseen to the rest of us.

Naturally, the free-to-play game has spurned countless headlines, reporting positive effects like getting video game junkies off their butts and outside, as well as the more unfortunate news — people sustaining injuries in the process of upping their Pokémon numbers. Even when you think you've heard it all, some of the following headlines we came across are pretty astounding:

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EWU students who were near violent truck attack in Nice, France are safe

Posted By on Fri, Jul 15, 2016 at 12:28 PM

A group of Eastern Washington University students were at the Bastille Day celebration in Nice, France, when a truck plowed through the crowd and killed at least 80 people on Thursday

All of those students and accompanying faculty members are safe, according to EWU President Mary Cullinan. 

"We join the world in mourning another horrific attack on the people of France," she said in a statement. 

She said 15 Eastern students are studying in Nice this summer. According to the school, many of those students were at the Bastille Day celebration. 

Gonzaga University reports that no students are in France at this time. We're still waiting on an answer from Washington State University. 

A couple EWU students in France have talked to local media. One student, Ari Flos, was a mile away from the carnage, and described how people were "completely panicked" in an interview with KREM

Another student, Ashley Casto, told KHQ she was at the celebration with a dozen other students. She described how people were running while on their phones trying to call loved ones. "I was in panic mode, so I just ran as fast as I could trying to get off the street." 

Spokane, North Idaho News & Weather
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THIS WEEKEND IN MUSIC: KISS, Phish and the South Perry Street Fair

Posted By on Fri, Jul 15, 2016 at 12:02 PM

Gene Simmons, when interviewed by the Inlander  last week, had this to say about  his band's upcoming show: "Your girlfriend's been lying to you all these years, size DOES count, and we're bringing all of it."
  • Gene Simmons, when interviewed by the Inlander last week, had this to say about his band's upcoming show: "Your girlfriend's been lying to you all these years, size DOES count, and we're bringing all of it."


Bringing a little of that Detroit Rock City action are the aging, yet agile, KISS. Their wild show kicks off at the Arena starting at 8 pm with Caleb Johnson opening. Of course, we’ll be there too looking for the best fan duds, so don’t be afraid to show up dressed for success. The bigger the platform boots, the better. Read Dan Nailen’s interview with the one and only Gene Simmons right here. Rock on!

Hitting the Gorge Amphitheatre for two nights this weekend is Phish. Anyone who’s read Nathan Rabin’s book You Don't Know Me but You Don't Like Me: Phish, Insane Clown Posse, and My Misadventures with Two of Music's Most Maligned Tribes, knows that going to a Phish show means hanging out with a bunch of folks who love the band more than almost anything else in the world. This is a four-piece rock group that hasn’t had many major radio hits, but through decades of playing highly creative and lengthy improvisational sets — each one different than the next, sometimes not turning out so well — they keep their fan base coming back for more unique shows. Three years ago, when Phish was last at the Gorge, we wrote a think piece about the similarities between Phish and baseball fans. Read that here.

A free outdoor show featuring awesome local talent? Yes, please. Starting Saturday at noon the South Perry Street Fair (not to be confused with Perry Street Shakedown) brings in the likes of Marshall McLean Band, Silver Treason, Delbert the Band (coming out of retirement for this weekend and the upcoming Gleason Fest), Super Sparkle, Little Wolf and Grooveacre. This community celebration includes more than 80 vendors and a multitude of activities. Check out the schedule right here.

Seattle-based indie-rock group the Cave Singers come back through the Bartlett Saturday. The band, which includes former members of the post-punk act Pretty Girls Make Graves, is now back in its original form as a three-piece. The show starts at 8 pm and is $17 at the door.

James Taylor is comes to the Spokane Arena Saturday. He’s seen fire and rain, and now you can hear him sing all about his experiences for a mere $65 or $85. Check out one of his songs below that’s actually pretty worthwhile.

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Behind the scenes of our Cheap Eats issue, France terror attack, Trump's running mate and other stories as you end your week

Posted By on Fri, Jul 15, 2016 at 9:42 AM


FOOD: Go behind the scenes of our Cheap Eats Issue
NEWS: A Kootenai prosecutor suggests police should give up on minority neighborhoods
NEWS:  Spokane Valley caps pot retailers at three, lifts moratorium on growers

Terror attack in France
More than 80 are dead and another 200 were left injured after a truck, driven by a terrorist, drove into a crowd of people celebrating Bastille Day in Nice, France.

It's official
Presumptive Republican nominee Donal Trump has selected Indiana Gov. Mike Pence to be his running mate. 

Cathy McMorris Rodgers won't be at the GOP Convention

Rep. McMorris Rodgers, the fourth-highest-ranking member of the House Republicans who represents Spokane and parts of Eastern Washington, will stay in Washington rather than attend the Republican National Convention. 

Plan to remove gray wolf from endangered list moves forward
Legislation, supported by McMorris Rodgers, that would remove federal protections for the gray wolf has been added to a House appropriations bill. 

Coeur d'Alene prepares new budget
The upcoming budget for the city of Coeur d'Alene includes employee raises and tax hikes. 
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Thursday, July 14, 2016

Go behind the scenes of our Cheap Eats issue

Posted By on Thu, Jul 14, 2016 at 4:27 PM


If you're not hungry now, you're going to be soon. That's because you're either going to read our fresh-off-the-press Cheap Eats issue, or due to the fact that all humans need food eventually.

This year's edition of our annual corralling of food from around the region that won't bust your budget or your gut is divided by the way you'll consume these goodies: with your hands, a fork, a spoon, a straw or with some sort of stick.

You can find all the stories right here, along with some valuable utensil history, which will give you ample small talk for your next dinner party. 

Here's a behind the scene's look at our photo shoot for the issue.
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A Kootenai prosecutor suggests police should give up on minority neighborhoods

Posted By on Thu, Jul 14, 2016 at 12:22 PM

Kootenai County bailiff Todd Hartman posted a controversial meme on his Facebook page this week. Over the picture of a white police officer, the text reads: "If we really wanted you dead all we'd have to do is stop patrolling your neighborhoods...AND WAIT." 


Deputy Kootenai County Prosecutor Bryant Bushling then chimed in: 

"Great point. Where the police are under attack from politicians, and the police become less aggressive, the murder rates go up. I say, let them have their neighborhoods. They will be like Rwanda in a matter of weeks."

Bushling says his comment, which drew criticism online, was misinterpreted. He has since edited it:  

"If you have never qualified as a gang expert in court, have not interviewed hundreds of gangsters and those terrorized by them, have never walked gang-infested streets, have not attended numerous hours of gang training, have not handled 100s if not 1000s of gang cases, have never participated in gang raids and seen these thugs in their environment — in short, you know nothing — but feel the need to comment on my posting without first asking me, then you are just an insignificant slithering coward." 

When contacted by the Inlander, Bushling said he regrets his wording, adding that his perspective is shaped by prosecuting gang-related cases in Los Angeles for 12 years. He's spent five years as a deputy prosecutor in Kootenai County.

"I know gangs very well," Bushling says. "And it's a mentality that you can't understand until you experience it. People will kill other people over the color of their shirt."

He adds that he sees at least one parallel between the Black Lives Matter message and the gang mindset, which is the narrative that police are inherently racist and are targeting black people.

"Whether there's any other connection, I don't know. I haven't seen any Black Lives Matter member flying colors," he says. "In fact, many people in the Black Lives Matter movement seem to be very sincere and are trying to have a discussion, but the narrative is false, and that's the narrative that I've found in almost all gang members I've had this discussion with." 
Bushling has not faced any blowback from Kootenai County Prosecutor Barry McHugh, who is on vacation this week. But Tony Stewart, founding board member of the Kootenai County Human Rights Education Institute, says it will be interesting to see how McHugh reacts. Perhaps a public apology is in order, Stewart suggests.

"This is another example where an individual makes a very serious mistake of stereotyping," Stewart says. "We're going through a very difficult time, and what one must not do, especially those in positions of responsibility, is allow extremists to divide us based on race or religion or any other difference."

Following a week where the country watched as two black men were killed by police in Louisiana and Minnesota and a sniper targeted white police officers in Dallas, police and other public officials vented their frustration on social media. Some called for peace and dialogue but others positioned themselves squarely on one side or the other: Black Lives Matter or police. 

In an age where interaction on social media can lead to real life results, some officers were fired, demoted or suspended. In comparison to some posts from around the country, Bushling's comment is somewhat tame.

A detective in Detroit was demoted and is currently under internal investigation after his comments about the Black Lives Matter movement went viral. 


A cop in Overland Park, Kansas (near Kansas City), was fired after posting a threatening message on a Dallas woman's Facebook picture of her daughter: 

"We'll see how much her life matters soon. Better be careful leaving your info open where she can be found :) Hold her close tonight it'll be the last time." 

And a firefighter in Savannah, Georgia was fired for a post including the N-word and "white power."

Some agencies are refusing to identify officers who've been fired or suspended, while other departments as a whole took to social media to condemn the Black Lives Matter movement.

A post on the Fort Worth Police Officers Association Facebook page, which has since been edited and then deleted, referred to the movement as "an organization that chooses to MURDER American law enforcement officers." 

And on the other side of the state, the head of the Seattle Police union resigned after his comment on the Seattle Police Officers' Guild Facebook page. The post has been since deleted, but it read: 

"Dallas PD and their officers are in our thoughts and prayers ... The hatred of law enforcement by a minority movement is disgusting ... Heads in swivels brothers and sisters ....#weshallovercome."
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Spokane Valley caps pot retailers at three, lifts moratorium on growers

Posted By on Thu, Jul 14, 2016 at 10:17 AM

An employee at Grow Op Farms, a marijuana producer-processor in Spokane Valley - WILSON CRISCIONE
  • Wilson Criscione
  • An employee at Grow Op Farms, a marijuana producer-processor in Spokane Valley

Spokane Valley has passed an ordinance that prohibits new marijuana retail stores but will allow new growers and processors. 

The decision means the moratorium that had been in place on any new marijuana licenses has been lifted. Tuesday's ordinance, which amends city code, keeps the ban on new retailers, but production facilities will now be able to expand or move subject to state and local buffering restrictions. 

That includes Grow Op Farms, which claims to be the largest producer-processor of retail marijuana by volume in the state. Rob McKinley, co-owner of Grow Op Farms, told city staff and council last week that the indoor farm was unable to expand any more because of the moratorium that had been in place since October 2015. With the moratorium being replaced by this amendment to city code, that will change. 

"We don't really have any more space," McKinley told council. "We're maxed out to the ceiling."

According to deputy city attorney Erik Lamb, there are 21 licensed producers and 25 licensed processors in Spokane Valley. 

The three pot retailers currently in the Valley won't be prohibited as part of the change to city code. But if they decide to move, then they will be still be subject to local and state buffering restrictions. Producers, processors or retailers cannot be located within 1,000 feet from any public schools or public libraries, for example.

On Tuesday, councilman Sam Wood expressed his desire to add a restriction that would prohibit marijuana businesses from locating within 1,000 feet of any church or hospital property. 

"I would like to see two things added to the buffers: churches and hospitals. That's what I'd like to see done," Wood said. 

But councilman Ed Pace said he didn't see how adding more buffers around hospitals and churches would make a difference. 

"I think we already have a well-thought-out, good set of buffer zones around parks, schools and that kind of thing," Pace said. "And when you combine that with the limit of three retail stores, that's restrictive already and does what most of us wanted to accomplish." 

What the council wants to accomplish, Mayor Rod Higgins has told the Inlander, is not to have retail stores "proliferate" in Spokane Valley while also allowing producers to work in the Valley. 

City Council voted to pass the amendment, with Wood casting the only "nay" vote. The city may look into adding buffers around churches and hospitals at a future date. 
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Pokémon GO, promotions within SPD, prison guard caught stealing from Dollar Tree and other morning headlines

Posted By on Thu, Jul 14, 2016 at 9:41 AM



• Two longtime Spokane County Jail physicians left the adult medical unit after a for-profit health care provider took over. 

• A retired SPD sergeant doesn't like what he's seeing with the new promotions among the department's top brass. "Political cronyism at its worst," he says. 

Pokémon GO is everywhere


• Spokane County Prosecutor Larry Haskell announced that his office is cracking down on drunk drivers — implementing a new DUI policy for the first time in 20 years. (Spokesman-Review)

• An Airway Heights prison guard was arrested by Cheney police for allegedly robbing a Dollar Tree last week. Officers noted similarities between the July 9 robbery and another robbery that happened at the same store in May 2015. (KXLY

• The U.S. Senate passed a bill to fight the growing opioid and heroin epidemic. The bill will now make its way to President Obama's desk, who is expected to sign it. 

• U.S. Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg apologized for her critical comments about Donald Trump. RGB called Trump a "faker" and said she couldn't (and didn't want) to imagine a world in which Trump was president. She's since said those comments were "ill-advised." 

• Three candidates for Spokane County Commission.
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Wednesday, July 13, 2016

Email from retired Spokane cop details problematic promotions, rift among top brass

Posted By on Wed, Jul 13, 2016 at 4:42 PM

  • Daniel Walters photo
Former Interim Law Enforcement Director Jim McDevitt's last day at the Spokane Police Department was June 30. 

On the way out the door, McDevitt made several promotions within the top rungs of the department and added two majors to SPD's ranks. But these moves have some officers raising serious questions about his decisions. Why these people? And why now, before the new chief is in place?

Tracie Meidl's promotion to captain in charge of investigations, for example, is one move that's raising eyebrows. Tracie Meidl is married to Assistant Chief Craig Meidl and was formerly a lieutenant in charge of community outreach.

After hearing of the promotions, recently retired Sgt. Joel Fertakis fired off an email to the mayor, city council members and some in SPD's command staff criticizing the decisions.

In his email, and later in a phone conversation with the Inlander, Fertakis took issue with the timing of the promotions, questioned the qualifications of the promoted individuals and described the moves as "political cronyism at its worst."

"The police department leadership is really no different than [it was] under Roger Bragdon or Anne Kirkpatrick, handing out undeserved positions to people when they aren't the most qualified," Fertakis wrote in the email. "The culture of the top brass will never change. The rank and file kept hearing while I was there that 'The police department needs to be fixed.' After the SPD has jumped through all the hoops forced on us by the Use of Force Commission, the DOJ, CIT, body cameras, etc, there is STILL one thing to fix: The Spokane Police Department leadership at the top level."

Fertakis retired July 1st after 31 years with the department.

"None of these promotions are permanent," McDevitt says today. "I wanted to preserve the new chief's ability to rearrange things the way he or she wants after getting the lay of the land."

Continue reading »

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