Sirens & Gavels

Police use-of-force case leaves questions

A Spokane man's arrest last July on suspicion of reckless driving, resisting arrest and driving with a suspended license has led to a disagreement between the Spokane Police Department and police Ombudsman Tim Burns, who has refused to certify the department’s internal investigation into a witness’s complaint of excessive force used against the suspect.

Burns questions an administrative review panel’s recommendation to exonerate the two accused officers. But police Chief Anne Kirkpatrick, who acted on the recommendation, said Burns doesn’t have the legal authority to make such a claim because his oversight is limited to internal investigations, not the later administrative review panels made up of police leaders.

“I don’t look at it as a substantive issue. To me, it’s just a legal question,” Kirkpatrick said. “What is Tim Burns’ authority and is the (panel) part of the investigation?”

Burns, who started work as the city’s first police ombudsman in August 2009, disagrees.

“My position is, If not me, then who?” he said.

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