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Power Play 

The feds consider a wider examination of SPD; plus, dismantling civil service rules

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  • Young Kwak

A Broader Look

Nearly two months into its review, the Department of Justice may move to expand its examination of the Spokane Police Department to cover the Police Ombudsman’s office and the multi-agency Spokane Investigative Regional Response team — a combined SPD, Spokane County Sheriff’s Office and State Patrol detective unit that investigates officer-involved incidents.

Spokane Police Chief Frank Straub says the DOJ review team expects to receive some additional funding, allowing the team to take a broader look at the police department’s culture and operations. He says the “Technical Assistance” review involves a collaborative approach to police reform.

“If they end up doing these other two things,” Straub says, “we may have them working with us for a year, which would be great.”

The review, which started in February, was initially expected to take three to six months.

— JACOB JONES

New Powers

After a lengthy back-and-forth that at one point devolved into an argument over the validity of Merriam-Webster’s definition of “shall,” the Spokane City Council voted 4-3 Monday to allow the creation of new departments with the city’s police and fire departments.

City staff and some council members clashed over whether new departments will result in new department head positions. If they do, the mayor could appoint people to those spots instead of using Civil Service, a standardized, merit-based testing process. Opponents worried that could encourage promotion and hiring based on cronyism or owed favors.

Police Chief Frank Straub argued the change was necessary to quickly hire qualified candidates for top-level positions and fire those who disappoint — an ability he says can help bring departmental changes the public demands.

Council President Ben Stuckart and members Amber Waldref and Jon Snyder voted against the change, arguing civil service should be reformed instead, that new departments should first be funded in the annual budget and that there was simply still too much confusion around what these ordinances did.

— HEIDI GROOVER

Reagan Republicans’ New Target

The Kootenai County Reagan Republicans’ have already remade the Coeur d’Alene School Board in their image. They’ve successfully run candidates for Coeur d’Alene City Council and the North Idaho College Board of Trustees.

But they now they have new goal: the Kootenai Hospital District Board of Trustees. “We decided we wouldn’t mind if some fiscal conservatives served on that board,” says Ron Lahr, president of the group.

With considerable tax revenue controlled by non-partisan positions, the group worries it isn’t always spent wisely. But while Kootenai Medical can levy taxes, it hasn’t for over a decade.

Two of the four candidates running for two trustee seats are Reagan Republicans, including Donna Montgomery, who says her goal is to “just make sure we keep the hospital running as a well-regulated business, not going in the hole.”

Liese Razzetta, an incumbent running to keep her board seat, says the Kootenai hospital board shouldn’t become political.

“I don’t want to speculate about why they’re trying to do what they’re trying to do,” she says of the Reagan Republicans.

— DANIEL WALTERS

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