Spokane councilman wants to see more transparency in the SPD's investigations


After the Spokane Police Department was finished investigating its officers accused of wrongdoing, it would publish the entire file to its website. Then in the spring of 2016, in what City Councilman BREEAN BEGGS called a "big step backward" in transparency efforts, the department scrubbed its website of the investigations and replaced them with summaries. No names. Few specific details. The department had received complaints from witnesses and accused officers, whose names were unredacted.

Now, Beggs is working on an ordinance intended to put some of those investigations back online.

Under his proposal, a person requesting a copy of an investigation from the police department could also request that the documents be posted online.

Beggs briefed his proposal during the Public Safety and Health Committee meeting this week, saying it's intended to cut down the number of times the city would respond to requests for the same document.

"And it promotes transparency," he says.

Police Ombudsman Bart Logue, in his 2017 annual report, recommended the department go even further and post each case, along with body camera footage, online regardless of a records request.

SPD Maj. Kevin King says the department's biggest concern is that redacting an investigation for a victim is different than for a witness or another third party, such as a news outlet.

"If we get a request from the victim, we'd have to redact it again to post it on the public website," King says. "So we're doubling our work."

Beggs acknowledges that the level of redaction is different depending on who is making the request, but he clarifies that the intent is to target those investigations of high public interest: uses of force, fatal encounters, gross misconduct.

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About The Author

Mitch Ryals

Mitch covers cops, crime and courts for the Inlander. He moved to Spokane in 2015 from his hometown of St. Louis, and is a graduate of the University of Missouri. He likes bikes, beer and baseball. And coffee. He dislikes lemon candy, close-mindedness and liars. And temperatures below 40 degrees.