The ACLU of Washington says Pasco police officers lack critical training, services for Spanish speakers are inadequate, and the community doesn’t have any meaningful input into police practices.
PASCO — The American Civil Liberties Union of Washington on Wednesday issued a critical report on the Pasco Police Department, contending officers lack critical training, services for Spanish speakers are inadequate, and the community doesn’t have any meaningful input into police practices.
Wednesday was the first anniversary of the killing by Pasco police of Antonio Zambrano-Montes at a busy intersection. Zambrano-Montes had been throwing rocks at police and passing vehicles before officers fired 17 times at the unarmed orchard worker.
The killing was captured on video and sparked weeks of peaceful protests in the agricultural city.
The Tri-City Herald reported that the 2014 police killings of Brad Jensen and Matthew Stoddard in Pasco were also criticized by the ACLU. All three men showed signs of behavior associated with mental distress or disorder, the report said.
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The ACLU questioned whether Pasco police were prepared to effectively deal with emotional or mentally ill people.
“It is clear that the department’s policies are outdated and inadequate,” the report said. “The policies do not provide guidance about de-escalation nor adequate details to guide officers on when and how to decrease the use of force.”
City officials disagreed with the ACLU’s report, saying that the group didn’t contact the city before issuing the report and failed to mention key improvements the police department has made since Zambrano-Montes’ death.
The department has beefed up training, made strides to improve community relations, revised some internal policies and hired more bilingual officers, Police Chief Bob Metzger said.
“I appreciate what the ACLU has done,” Metzger said. “But I’m disappointed they didn’t talk to us before they (issued the report). There has been a lot of changes.”
The ACLU said the 76-officer department has weak policies regarding use of force and no guide to de-escalate crisis situations. But city officials said the department has focused much of its recent training on de-escalation of crisis incidents, bolstered its review criteria on use of force and trained its officers on bias-free policing.
The city is also awaiting a review from the U.S. Department of Justice on its policies and procedures.