Spokane Journal of Business

The Journal’s View: City forms collaborative police reform framework

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Spokane appears to be on a more constructive track than other cities, namely Seattle, as it shapes an inclusive framework for addressing police reform.

Ground rules put forth earlier this month by Mayor Nadine Woodward and City Council members set the framework for a collaborative approach to reform and improve community and police relationships.

There’s no talk among city leaders here about dismantling or defunding police, unlike in Seattle, where the Council earlier this month voted to partially defund police and reduce the force by 100 officers, without alternative plans to support public safety. The Seattle mayor has vetoed the measure, but there’s likely enough support on the Council to override the veto.

Here, stakeholders will be asked to come to the table in coming weeks and months to help the city work toward sustained, meaningful action toward racial equity in policing.

Racial and social equitability is necessary for a healthy economy, and it will be vital for the business community to be represented at the table.

As Mark Richard, president and CEO of Downtown Spokane Partnership, says, “The business community is an important stakeholder and belongs in that dialogue if we’re going to be honest and successful in making changes necessary.”

In light of ongoing Black Lives Matter protests and yet another highly publicized shooting of a Black man by Midwest police, the call for reform is only getting louder.

While there is a sense of urgency to address reform here, critical decisions about public safety should be well thought out with stated results and with the backing of the community, unlike the defunding action in Seattle, which the Downtown Seattle Association described as made with “speed and pettiness” rather than as part of a thoughtful plan.

Richard warns, if reform isn’t done in a manner that makes everyone feel safer, “We could see a relocation of businesses and citizens.”

Rather than talking about defunding, there likely will be discussions of shifting and adding resources to provide law enforcement with tools they need to be the public servants the community needs them to be. Such moves could involve enhancing behavioral health training and partnerships.

Looking at a police reform agenda put forth earlier by City Council President Breean Beggs, we can expect discussions about limiting use of force and shifting from militarization to greater emphasis on de-escalation tactics. Beggs also is calling for more police training in cultural competency, implicit bias, and motivational interviewing.

Some of these discussions will be difficult. NAACP Spokane President Kurtis Robinson says it’s time to eliminate what he calls “blue fragility” – resistance within law enforcement that blocks conversations about race and reform.

Robinson says accountability must apply to all people, and “police need to be more accountable – not less – than anyone else.”

While there’s much work to do, Spokane Police Chief Craig Meidl says, he thinks Spokane has a head start on some other communities in addressing police reform. In areas where stakeholders aren’t coming together to talk, “It doesn’t feel like things move forward as quickly as they could,” he says.

It’s clear community leaders here are hearing the call for police and justice reform, and the framework being set up should result in meaningful action that’s equitable for all.

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