By Eric M. Johnson
Civil rights activist Rachel Dolezal, who drew national attention over her racial identity, was ousted on Thursday from a municipal police oversight commission in Washington state over conduct violations, a city spokesman said.
The decision by the Spokane City Council comes after investigators hired by the city to probe allegations of misconduct found Dolezal had publicly named citizens who made complaints against police officers, in violation of confidentiality rules.
The lawyers, in investigating an April 16 whistleblower complaint, also found that the city employee who filed the complaint had faced intimidating and offensive behavior from Dolezal, who headed the Office of Police Ombudsman Commission, and two other commission members.
Six members of the Spokane City Council voted unanimously to remove Dolezal after about 45 minutes of deliberation at a special session on Thursday, city spokesman Brian Coddington said.
“We’ve never had a situation like this. It’s been a huge issue in this community,” Council President Ben Stuckart said. “I am hoping with the removal of Ms. Dolezal we can move forward quickly, get new commissioners in place, and also continue our recent successes on police reform.”
Stuckart had joined Spokane Mayor David Condon on Wednesday in calling for Dolezal’s resignation.
Dolezal, 37, resigned this week as president of the Spokane chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, a leading civil rights organization, amid reports she was falsely claiming to be African-American.
Dolezal has told U.S. media she identifies as black, and the controversy triggered a national debate over the bounds of racial identity and self-identification.
She was raised in a home with adopted black siblings and attended historically black Howard University, according to a white couple who told U.S. media they are her biological parents.
Also on Thursday, the council accepted the resignation of another commissioner named in the probe and will consider the fate of another next week.
Dolezal’s removal from the police panel likely means the city’s ethics commission will stop investigating whether she violated city rules when she identified herself as Caucasian, Native American and black in her job application, Stuckart said.
Dolezal said after the report was released that she was “sincerely troubled” by its “short-sided conclusions,” according to Spokane-area broadcaster KHQ. “I stand by my work on behalf of the citizens of Spokane to further justice and promote civilian oversight of law enforcement,” she said.
(Reporting by Eric M. Johnson in Seattle; Editing by Cynthia Johnston and Eric Beech)