Work in Progress

The city's Use of Force Commission weighs in on progress at SPD; plus, Lakeland Village under fire

Not Done Yet

A month-old letter from the city's Use of Force Commission surfaced last week in response to the Spokane Police Department's ongoing reform efforts, commending initial progress, but also calling out three recommendations in need of additional attention.

The Oct. 15 letter served as the commission's written response to a six-month update in August on the police department's implementation of 26 reforms recommended by the commission. Chairman Earl "Marty" Martin says they wanted to recognize early progress while calling attention to concerns raised during the six-month update.

While the SPD has introduced new policies and training, the commission's letter calls for police officials to follow through with a "culture audit" on officer attitudes, which commissioners have criticized for being in some cases defensive or demoralized.

The letter also encouraged greater transparency during future union negotiations and reinforced commission support for an independent police ombudsman's office, which remains under public debate in the wake of Proposition 1's passage earlier this year.

"We believe independence is an important value," Martin says.

As far as additional feedback, the letter explains "the Commission will reserve commenting on the evolution of specific recommendations until such time as the on-going efforts have had a chance to mature." — JACOB JONES

Broken Rules

Lakeland Village, a state-run institution in Medical Lake for people with developmental disabilities, broke federal law more than 40,000 times over the past two and half years by failing to provide adequate services to more than two dozen residents, according to a new review by investigators at the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS).

In a letter to officials at the state Department of Social and Health Services, CMS described illegal cuts to services for 27 people with developmental disabilities. Before the cuts were made in 2011, David Lord, with the advocacy organization Disability Rights Washington, says these residents were receiving numerous services intended to help them develop life skills for reintegrating into the community. "These individual were essentially warehoused instead of being provided the kind of treatment they should have been getting," Lord says. "You can't just dump people in nursing homes."

Speaking to the Seattle Times, DSHS spokeswoman Chris Case said the letter was based on a "technicality" and a failure to provide evidentiary paperwork, but David Carlson, an attorney for Disability Rights Washington, says the state's decision to deny treatment to these individuals was made in response to a 2011 directive to cut more than $1.8 million from the department's budget.

CMS is demanding Washington pay back as much as $16 million in federal matching dollars. The agency is also recommending that the feds conduct a civil rights investigation into the matter. — DEANNA PAN

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