The report follows last year’s shooting of Antonio Zambrano-Montes that sparked protests in the city. It also calls for better training, a bilingual social-media presence and better relationships between police and minority communities.
SPOKANE — The Pasco Police Department should take steps to ensure all officers speak some Spanish, improve the training of officers to deal with mentally ill people, and hire more Spanish-speaking officers in the wake of last year’s shooting of a man with a history of mental illness that sparked protests in the city, a training group recommended.
The recommendations were released Monday by the Police Executive Research Forum, which was asked by the U.S. Department of Justice to study the shooting in the Central Washington city.
The report recommended that the police department fully embrace the concept of community policing, provide more opportunities for officers to learn Spanish, attract more Spanish-speaking officers and provide officers with an understanding of cultural diversity and the role of implicit bias in policing. “While the guidance in this report is specific to Pasco, much of it can also be applied to police agencies across the nation that are facing challenges similar to Pasco’s,” the report said.
The report noted an upheaval in policing since 2014, when protests broke out over the police shooting of a black man in Ferguson, Mo.
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Antonio Zambrano-Montes, an orchard worker from Mexico, was shot and killed as he threw rocks at police at a busy downtown intersection in February 2015. The city of more than 60,000 residents is majority Hispanic but has a police force with relatively few minorities.
In June, federal prosecutors announced they would not file charges against the three police officers who killed Zambrano-Montes. U.S. Attorney Michael Ormsby said there was insufficient evidence that the officers violated the civil rights of Zambrano-Montes when they fired 17 bullets at him on Feb. 10, 2015.
An autopsy showed he had methamphetamine in his system. He also had a history of mental illness and previous interactions with police.
Cellphone video of the shooting went viral and led to weeks of peaceful protests in the city along the Columbia River.
Local prosecutors had also cleared officers Adrian Alaniz, Ryan Flanagan and Adam Wright in the shooting.
The parents of Zambrano-Montes have filed a lawsuit in federal court contending the officers used excessive force. That case is scheduled for trial next May. Several other lawsuits have been filed.
Officers Wright and Alaniz have returned to work. Flanagan has since left the department.
After the shooting, the Justice Department asked the Police Executive Research Forum to provide training and technical assistance to Pasco police.
The group already has conducted training for Pasco police, including a program to focus on building relationships between police and community members. The police department also was urged to develop a social-media presence in both English and Spanish.
The report found that community policing must be promoted despite competing concerns so that police can better deal with the city’s various communities.
In a statement, Pasco City Manager Dave Zabell said the report will help the department and community move forward.
“The department has been awaiting the publication of the report in order to complete contemplated policy updates, and the department has been holding off on significant updates for several months so that these recommendations can be considered as part of the update process,” Zabell said.