Status Update

The feds grade progress at SPD; plus, a twist in Bergdahl's case

click to enlarge Bowe Bergdahl is from Hailey, Idaho.
Bowe Bergdahl is from Hailey, Idaho.


Despite the recent scandal and cover-up within the SPOKANE POLICE DEPARTMENT, a new report from the U.S. Department of Justice says SPD is making "significant progress" on most of its 42 recommendations to improve the agency's uses of force and its relationship with the community.

The Justice Department handed Spokane a list of recommendations after an 11-month review of the department's community relations, civilian oversight and use-of-force policies, investigations and training. As of June, when the data for the report was collected, five of those recommendations have been fully completed and 27 more are "in progress," the DOJ says. No progress has been made on 10 of the recommendations; however, a majority of those either require a sitting ombudsman or need to be worked out during labor contract talks.

One recommendation, for example, was to allow the administrative review panelists — the internal group that reviews uses of force — to start considering the officer's decision-making and tactics. Currently, panelists only decide if an officer violated policy. A change like this, which could result in discipline, needs to be negotiated with the police unions first.

As far as the completed recommendations: SPD has launched a citizens' academy, which it intends to continue on an annual basis, and use-of-force reports are now published online. SPD also refined the process for identifying officers with a high frequency of problems, the report found. The next installment from the Justice Department will be released in the fall of 2016. (MITCH RYALS)


Back in October, BOWE BERGDAHL got the first good news he's had in a very long time.

The Hailey, Idaho, native — freed from five years of Taliban captivity after a May 2014 prisoner swap — learned that the man in charge of his preliminary hearing, Lt. Col. Mark Visger, had recommended that Bergdahl not face jail time or a punitive discharge. Bergdahl had been charged with desertion and misbehavior before the enemy.

This week, his fortune changed. Gen. Robert Abrams, head of Army Forces Command, ordered that Bergdahl face a general court-martial, instead of a milder "special court-martial." A general court-martial is a very serious thing: Bergdahl could spend five years in prison the desertion charge, and the rest of his life behind bars because of misbehavior before the enemy.

The Army's investigator had concluded that sending him to prison would be "inappropriate," and said his investigation found that media claims that the search for Bergdahl resulted in deaths were inaccurate.

"I think he recognizes he was young and naïve and inexperienced," said Kenneth Dahl, deputy commanding general at Joint Base Lewis-McChord. Dahl suggested that Bergdahl had left to report perceived problems in his unit.

But Eugene Fidell, Bergdahl's attorney, lamented that "the convening authority did not follow the advice of the preliminary hearing officer who heard the witnesses."

The court-martial again raises the possibility that five Taliban prisoners had been released so a deserter could be freed from captivity in Afghanistan, only to be sent to captivity in America. (DANIEL WALTERS)

Taco Night with Chef Travis of Cochinito @ Second Harvest Food Bank

Mon., Oct. 21, 5:30-8 p.m.
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About The Authors

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.

Daniel Walters

A lifelong Spokane native, staff writer Daniel Walters is the Inlander's City Hall reporter. But he also reports on a wide swath of other topics, including business, education, real estate development, land use, and other stories throughout North Idaho and Spokane County.He's reported on deep flaws in the Washington...