Why not try real solutions?
Spokane could just decide to love its community more. Everyone wants less crime, but leaning on police to do all the work just creates more prisoners. We need to actually invest in our community; in each other.
In December 2021 the Spokesman-Review reported that Spokane Police Chief Meidl suspended the Patrol Anti-Crime Team, known as PACT. Chief Meidl made this decision after U.S. District Court Judge Rosanna Malouf Peterson dismissed a major drug trafficking case involving an alleged repeat offender with multiple criminal convictions because the officers involved were determined to have made false statements.
Spokane Police Officers Scott Lesser and Winston Brooks were members of PACT and arresting officers involved in the case. U.S. District Court Judge Peterson noted discrepancies between the officers’ notes the night of a drug deal and their official reports upon which the arrests were made. These discrepancies forced her to dismiss the entire case. It is currently unclear if the officers involved will be added to the “Brady List.”
Established under Washington State law, the Brady List, also known as “a potential impeachment list,” names officers whose testimony in court should be questioned because they have proven themselves unreliable witnesses. Some officers on the Brady List were placed there because–like Lesser and Brooks–there were discrepancies between their reports and testimony. Officers on the Brady List are viewed as unreliable witnesses, and most prosecutors are less likely to pursue a case that relies on their testimony, because it can be easily challenged by the defense. Lesser and Brooks are not yet on the Brady List, but some officials believe they should be.
According to the Spokane Police Department website, the Patrol Anti-Crime Team was formed in 2011 “ to address emerging crime trends and prolific offenders.” The 10 officers of PACT did not participate in responding to calls, but took a more proactive approach to stopping crime by utilizing informants and organizing crime busts. PACT worked with Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (more commonly known as ATF) and U.S. Marshals on cases involving weapons and drugs. These cases often rose above the local courts to the federal level, where they were heard by the U.S. District Courts.
Officers Scott Lesser and Winston Brooks were asked to answer for the discrepancies in their notes and official reports by February 1st, 2022. All members of PACT have been placed on patrol duty. Internal affairs has been called in to investigate the issue of falsifying official reports. As far as we know, this remains an open investigation. The community has received no updates on any disciplinary action, Brady list updates, or other forms of accountability.
There were previous issues with PACT officers Sergeant Kurt Vigesaa and then Corporal Jeffrey McDollough in 2017. Whistleblower Lonnie Tofsrud, a detective at the time, brought to light discrepancies in Vigessa and McDollough’s reports concerning the investigation and arrest of a confidential informant. Vigessa and McDollough did not face discipline. In fact McDollough was promoted to Sergeant in September of the same year. Tofsrud, however, was removed from duty for his statements questioning the validity of his fellow officers’ testimony.
It is bad for public safety and the credibility of law enforcement any time an officer files untruthful or inaccurate reports. Disturbingly, it appears that the Spokane Police Department prefers to internally shuffle unreliable or dishonest officers from department to department instead of taking disciplinary action. It is obvious there is a problem when an entire unit must be dissolved due to officers’ unethical behavior. Simply moving these officers to a patrol position does not address the problem. Instead, the problem persists in theSpokane community.
Spokane needs a robust, diversified public safety network that helps build community trust and safety for everyone. The Spokane Police Department needs to hold officers accountable for their behavior. And Spokane City and County need an empowered Office of Police Ombudsman and strong community oversight to hold our law enforcement officers accountable to the law and a culture of integrity.