It is quite simple actually!
The press conferences are SPD’s effort to show that they have established some type of system to comply with COPS/DOJ Recommendation 8.7 and specifically this:
“The public release of the facts of the incident should be released—but not in the venue of a DFRB. The facts should be released to the public in a separate forum, preferably after the recommendations have been made and the DFRB memo has been filed.”
SPD’s recent revisions to the DFRB have expanded the scope of the review board’s purpose and goals; while these changes increase transparency, it can also negatively affect the department’s ability to effectively assess tactics, training, and equipment after a deadly force incident.
In September 2014, the assessment team observed a DFRB. This was the second observed DFRB by the assessment team (*122) The DFRB observed in September 2014 was facilitated by the captain of the Office of Professional Oversight and included more members of the public and individuals not part of the SPD DFRB, the Office of the Police Ombudsman, or the city council. The presentation reviewing the incident was informative, with the additions of the radio transmissions, maps, and photos of the scene. Additional presentations on mental health, legal, and other considerations were also provided. In total, the presentations comprised 18 sections, lengthening the DFRB’s review from two hours (like the November 2013 session) to three hours. At the end of the presentations, participants were asked to identify action items and recommendations. The captain noted that she would consolidate the recommendations and action items noted into a memo and distribute it to the board members for approval.
In order to accommodate the larger group of participants and observers, the DFRB was held at the SPD training academy, and participants sat in a classroom rather than at a round table. This made it unclear who the members of the board were and what roles they played in the process. As a result of having so many (18) sections, the presentations had overlaps and redundancy in the discussions of incident events and officer actions. Further, participants were reluctant to provide their recommendations and speak candidly, likely due to the increased public presence at the board meeting. The overall sense was that rather than being a review meeting, it was a public presentation of the incident.
While informing the public of the incident is necessary to ensure transparency, the charge of the DFRB is to “objectively evaluate the use of deadly force (*123) In order to effectively evaluate the use of deadly force, the board members must candidly voice their recommendations on changes to training, tactics, and equipment. The setting used in the most recent DFRB did not allow for these candid discussions to take place. In addition, at the conclusion it was unclear what the recommendations were, what action items had been identified, and who would be responsible for making these changes.
SPD should reassess the purpose and goal of the DFRB to ensure that it both provides transparency and maintains its ability to effectively assess tactics, training, and equipment after a deadly force incident.
SPD should narrow the scope of future DFRBs and include only the presentations that directly speak to each of the considerations that board members must review. The public release of the facts of the incident should be released—but not in the venue of a DFRB. The facts should be released to the public in a separate forum, preferably after the recommendations have been made and the DFRB memo has been filed.
- The assessment team also observed the DFRB held in November 2013.
- Spokane Police Department. 2013. Policy Manual. Policy 302. – 83 – Chapter 8. Use of Force Investigations and Documentation
Narrowing the scope of the DFRB ensures that this process remains sustainable and consistent across all reviews. SPD should also ensure that recommendations are restated at the end of the DFRB and that the individuals in charge of making policy changes, scheduling training, or ordering equipment are noted. This will ensure everyone has a clear understanding of his or her responsibilities, the next steps, and action items. The memo written up afterwards should formally document all discussion. In addition, SPD should reassess and clearly define the role and responsibility of each member and observer in the DFRB. See finding 8.4 for more detail on how the action items stemming from this review board should be tracked and monitored.
As well are the Recommendation of the Use of Force Commission.
I have covered this issue in previous stories.
The big question is will these press conferences provide the transparency necessary for SPD to regain public trust? Another question as far as transparency is concerned is whether or not SPD will release the Deadly Force Review Board Documents prior to their press conference so reporters have an opportunity to formulate pointed questions regarding the OIS which is subject to the press conference? Most local reporters are at somewhat of a disadvantage from the stand point of having experience in investigating Officer Involved Shootings, so the DFRB documents would be of great help to them in developing an understanding, and formulating pointed questions to ask during the press conference.
It will be interesting to see what happens, or what will happen when a new Chief of Police is finally in place.