Spokane Council Removes Rachel Dolezal From Police Oversight Position

The mayor and city council president of Spokane, Washington, had earlier called on Dolezal and two other members of a police oversight commission to resign after an investigation found instances of harassment and lack of transparency.

Dan Pelle / AP

The city council in Spokane, Washington, on Thursday removed Rachel Dolezal from a civilian police oversight commission after an investigation found that she and other members had engaged in workplace harassment and contributed to a lack of transparency.

The move came one day after city leaders called on Dolezal and two other members of the commission to resign after the reports findings were made public.

In May, the city hired a law firm to do an independent investigation of the Office of Police Ombudsman Commission and the city employee, an assistant to the police ombudsman, who reported the hostile working conditions. As the report was finalized, news broke that Dolezal was born to white parents, calling into question her representation of herself as a black woman to the city officials and the community.

At a news conference, Spokane Mayor David Condon said the report showed a failure of transparency within the commission, defeating its purpose and role in the community.

"It's a devastating setback for us," he said.

City Council President Ben Stuckart added that he was particularly disheartened that Dolezal had left Spokane — the community she claimed to serve — to appear on NBC's Today and other programs in New York.

"This woman didn't have the guts to apologize," he said.

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"We have a responsibility for all 2,000 employes of the city of Spokane, and to put them in a situation where a volunteer board is creating an intimidating and harassing workplace is horrific," Stuckart said.

On Thursday, the council voted unanimously to remove Dolezal, who also acussed of failng to set aside personal biases, from her position. The council also accepted the resignation of commissioner Kevin Berkompas. The third commissioner named in the investigation, Adrian Dominguez, has been given an extension to review the report.

According to the investigation, Dolezal undermined the city assistant in public meetings, insinuating that she was not doing her job properly or providing enough attention to the commission. When the assistant emailed police for information regarding a program, Dolezal told police to disregard her.

The investigation also found Dolezal and the others tried to get around public meetings requirements. The decision to make Dolezal the commission's chair appeared to have been made behind closed doors, the report found. Additionally, commissioners made changes to minutes of the meetings in private. And after a reporter asked Dolezal a question about one of her votes, the former civil rights leader asked that the city stop recording each commissioner's voting record.

In a training session with the police department, Dolezal asked "hostile and accusatory" questions, the report also found. When one video scenario showed a black suspect, Dolezal sarcastically asked if all the suspects would be black. The previous video showed a white suspect.

In her position on the commission, Dolezal was supposed to act impartially in her dealings with police and the public, the report continued. Her position as president of the NAACP at the time served as a conflict of interest, the report said, since she was a visible protester against police uses of force and had met with the family of a man who died while in custody.

With misconduct found for three of the five members of the commission, city officials said the way forward would be difficult. Condon said the city was reaching out to a diverse group of community leaders.

"I do believe we have the foundation to move forward," he said.