Report details history of police use of force in Spokane

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SPOKANE, Wash – As cities across the country use the death of George Floyd in police custody to examine their own departments, people in Spokane can see quite easily how their police department is using force in the community.

The city unveiled an interactive dashboard last fall that shows use of force incidents over a six-year period that ended in 2018.

4 News Now looked through the report that generated the information on the dashboard. Compiled by Washington-based Police Strategies, LLC, it documents trends and behaviors of Spokane Police from 2013 to 2018.

Some of the key findings of that report include:

  • Spokane Police were involved in 645 use of force incidents in that period, marking about 108 per year
  • Use of force incidents happened most often in the summer months
  • Police were most likely to use force between 11 pm and midnight
  • Incidents were more likely to occur in the earlier part of the week (from Sunday to Thursday) and were lowest on Friday and Saturday
  • Most incidents occurred in the street (42%) or in a residence (40%)
  • Police were most likely to use force when responding to a violent crime (40%), followed by a property crime (20%)
  • Most of the incidents occurred in the Riverside neighborhood/downtown Spokane
  • Two officers were responsible for 14% of all use of force incidents. Both are canine handlers and their use of force was dog bites
  • 43% of the incidents involved physical force only; 35% used weapons; 22% were both physical force and weapons
  • Most common physical force: grabbing/pulling/holding. Takedowns were second
  • Officers used their weight to hold someone down 19% of the time, a number that declined significantly over the six years
  • Spokane Police used lateral neck restraints more often as time went on
  • Most of the people SPD used force upon were white men from Spokane between the ages of 18 and 49. Spokane Police used force on black men between 18-29 4.5% of the time
  • 76% of the people on whom Spokane Police used force were injured. 22 were shot or killed

You can read the full report here.

Spokane Police have had several oversight investigations dating back to the in-custody death of Otto Zehm, who died while in custody at a Spokane Zip Trip in 2006. A Spokane Police officer went to prison for violating Zehm’s civil rights.

PAST COVERAGE: Otto Zehm’s death catalyst for Spokane Police changes

The Department of Justice conducted an investigation and has recently said SPD went “above and beyond” to improve relations within the community.

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