- Daniel Walters photo
Last June, Spokane Police Chief Craig Meidl touted a plan to update the Police Department's use-of-force policy by the fall of 2018. But roughly eight months later, the revamp has yet to happen.
The policy update stems from a collaborative effort between Chief Meidl and Ombudsman Bart Logue — the department's official civilian watchdog — who agreed to work together on drafting new policies. Logue says that his office reviewed the policies of 100 other police departments around the country before submitting a draft to Meidl for his review and approval last summer.
However, the fall rollout timeline came and went without an official adoption of the new policies.
Meidl tells the Inlander that the initiative got put on hold because he was waiting for the city's legal department to review the draft.
"I thought we would have this thing done by fall and obviously I grossly misjudged," he says.
Meidl cited the scale of the policy revamp as one of the reasons why it took the lawyers so long to review the draft.
"It's not just a few sentences here and there," Meidl says. "It's a huge overhaul."
Some of the revisions included in the proposed update are that the department prioritize the "protection and preservation" of human life and that officers use de-escalation tactics before resorting to force as circumstances permit.
Meidl says that his department has been training to such standards, even though they haven't yet been codified into policy. "We're already training to this policy. The thing is we've never memorialized what we're training our officers towards," he says.
In law enforcement agencies, use-of-force policies serve as internal standards to help dictate the department culture and guide how officers interact with the communities they patrol. Chiefs can also discipline officers for violation of those department policies. (Statute and case law, however, still serve as the ultimate accountability standards for officers who use excessive force.)
Now, Meidl says that he's finally received legal feedback on the draft and that his command staff have been briefed on it. (He also says that there are no elements of the policy which will need to be bargained with the Spokane Police Guild.) SPD leadership will be making some "minor changes" that don't alter the substance of the policy, Meidl says, after which he'll send it back over to Logue for his review and gather more input from the broader police department.
Additionally, Meidl says that he wants to get community feedback on the draft as well, though the timeline for that process is unclear. He says that he hopes that they'll have decided a format for the community input "within the next month, two at most."