Police shootings in Spokane

Tattered Flag flown in front of the Spokane Va...

Image via Wikipedia

I was not going to comment on the controversy over numerous recent police involved shootings in the Spokane area since I did not think them related to the economy.

But the recent trend of a police involved shooting every 2 weeks may have an economic or demographic angle. I will get to that in a moment.

(Photo is of a badly torn and tattered flag flown by the Spokane Valley Police Department. What’s up with that?)

Brief History

For the 4th time in 8 weeks, Spokane area law enforcement has shot another person. As is typical, the only witness is the deputy, officer or trooper who did the shooting, together with unusual practices in the local police department that have led to questionable investigations.

The details are far to complex to summarize here – and I have no intent of judging innocence or guilt of either the victim or the officer.

For the benefit of readers outside the area, a bit of recent history. Spokane area police have been involved in some major controversies in recent years. The alleged murder of Otto Zehm, for example, the U.S. Attorney’s office alleges a cover up involving at least ten members of the Spokane Police Department all the way up to the acting police chief at the time.

Or the story of the off duty police officer who shot Shonto Pete in the head, outside a bar, at night. And then apparently called his union leadership before calling 9-1-1.

A few years back, a group of young people had a peaceful protest against police brutality, and participated in a peaceful march from Peaceful Valley to the downtown venue for a 4th of July celebration. Shortly thereafter, the police were arresting lots of young people and accusing them of assaulting police officers. Some time later, the police revealed they had secretly made a video tape of the proceedings – and on the audio track was heard two police officers talking about how much fun it would be to incite a riot (really) …. soon thereafter, all charges were dropped.

Against that background, we come to August 25th, when a prominent local citizen and church Pastor, Scott Creach was shot and killed late at night by a deputy sheriff in the parking lot of the business owned by Mr. Creach. This was followed by a litany of bizarre statements by the police that union rules prohibited interviewing a police officer for 72 hours and that this led to better recall. Worse than that, the deputy left hours after the shooting for a week long vacation that ended up in Las Vegas. The inconsistent statements were non stop, culminating a few weeks later with the Sheriff’s PR spokesperson accusing the Creach family of saying things to the media to add a bunch of zeros to a legal claim against the County. The same PR person falsely accused a local TV station of trespassing when they photographed the officer’s out of state home – from the sidewalk.

Unprofessional behavior seemed rampant in this case.

Over the next 8 weeks, 3 more people would be shot including an unarmed 39 week pregnant woman, and a guy alleged to be shooting at police and some one alleged to have mental problems and a sharp piece of obsidian. The unarmed pregnant woman’s shooting was blamed on an “accidental discharge” of the officer’s weapon.

And the guy alleged to be shooting at police? The newspaper reported there was no forensic evidence – like spent shell casings – to confirm that the guy ever fired a weapon. Who knows?

Then, yesterday, police shot and killed a 50 year old man alleged to have possibly approached police with a “sharp object”.

I have no idea who is right or wrong in any of this – except I will fault the inexcusably sloppy and unprofessional way that the investigation of the Creach shooting was dealt with. They also put the officer’s patrol car back in service the next morning without first collecting potential evidence from the vehicle.

How This Relates To Spokane Economics and Demographics

The questions people are asking are:

1 – Why are the police compelled to shoot so many in Spokane? 14 people have been shot in the state in the past 2 months. Spokane has 7% of the State’s population but 29% of the shootings.

2-If its not a change in the police, is it a change in the people?

Is it something in Spokane?

Readers of this blog know that the actual data about Spokane is often very different than what we think we know about Spokane. As I have said repeatedly, what I have learned has been quite surprising.

Something is going on here. Something quite serious. Is the economic situation worse than what we are told? Is there a greater concentration of mental illness, depression, and drug addiction in Spokane? (As posted elsewhere on this web site, all of those occur with greater frequency in Spokane than the rest of the state.) What is it? Crime rates have always been much greater than the State average.

Please read this comment by “Zelda Krups” who, when I read this, thought perhaps this was a pseudonym of me (it’s not!)  She writes in comments to the first news story about the shooting (and I do not have permission to reprint this so leave a note in comments and I’ll remove it if this is a problem):

in the Great Recession, there’s an even more pronounced attitude of “Avert your eyes; let’s not talk about what we just saw.” When it comes to analyzing the statistics and drawing some valid conclusions, what we get instead are Progress Report luncheons where bankers and economists predict that prosperity is just around the corner. ….

Spokane is poor, has a growing crime problem, low-wage jobs and an unemployment rate far higher than anyone is willing to speak about publically.[sic]

I am not the only one to have noticed the disconnect between public pronouncements about Spokane and the reality.


Local’s now refer to the area as Spokompton, after the gang violence of Compton, Ca. Others call its Spokanistan. Not sure why other than perhaps to refer to some periodically unstable government regimes in the “-stans” area of Asia.