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Spin Control

Posts tagged: police ombudsman

Condon asks Police Guild for contract changes

Spokane Mayor David Condon is heeding the advice of Spokane City Council members who have pushed him to reopen contract negotiations with the Spokane Police Guild.

The mayor and guild agreed to a tentative four-year labor contract last fall, but that deal was rejected by the City Council in November. It was nearly rejected a second time in December before the council opted to delay a vote until Feb. 3.

City officials confirmed this week that administrators have sent proposed changes to the proposed contract to the mediator working with the city and guild. Condon met in a private session with the City Council on Monday to talk about negotiations with the guild. City spokesman Brian Coddington said he could not provide details on the city’s most recent proposal.

Early this year, City Council President Ben Stuckart sent a letter to Condon urging him to reopen negotiations to spare the council from rejecting the deal again.

Police Guild promises to negotiate in good faith for reform

Spokane Police Guild officials announced in a news release Monday that the union “embraces” a police reform resolution that the Spokane City Council is likely to approve tonight.

“The Guild wants to thank the Council members for recognizing that many of the steps presented in the resolution may affect the working conditions of represented employees and would need to be negotiated with the affected unions,” the news release said. “The City Council can expect the Guild to negotiate in good faith.”

The guild agreed to the city's first rules that created the police ombudsman but successfully challenged an update to the job's powers last year. The resolution in front of City Council tonight calls not only for the reinstatement of the ombudsman's independent oversight powers, but for the police chief to be able to use ombudsman reports when considering discipline.

Interim Police Chief Scott Stephens has said he would support the upgraded ombudsman rules.

“I believe the officers actually developed kind of a favorable opinion of that (the stronger police ombudsman ordinance that was repealed). The guild of course is taking a look at this and just saying, 'We don't have objections to that in principle. Again we just want to make sure that if you're going to do this we want to be at the table.' They felt like things were being done to them without their input and I think that's why they threw the roadblock up there.”

A call to Guild President Erinie Wuthrich was not immediately returned.

Coalition calls on candidates to take ombudsman pledge

A coalition of organizations including the Peace and Justice Action League of Spokane is asking Spokane mayoral and City Council candidates to pledge not to vote for a Spokane Police Guild contract unless it includes stronger oversight.

The guild's contract expires at the end of the year and is under negotiation currently.

Earlier this month, the City Council repealed its 2010 police oversight law at the demand of an arbitrator, who ruled that it violated the guild's contract. The law gave Ombudsman Tim Burns the right to investigate allegations of police misconduct separately from the police department's internal affairs division.

The city is now operating under its 2008 police ombudsman rules.

Those who voted to repeal the law said the best way to obtain the provisions in the 2010 law are win guild approval of them through negotiations. Some council member said they would be unlikely to vote for guild contract unless the extra oversight is included in it.

League Director Liz Moore said pledge supporters will give candidates until the end of the week to decide if they will sign the pledge. Results will be publicized early next week.


Documents:

Council hires second attorney to defend police ombudsman rules

The Spokane City Council isn’t giving up on stronger police oversight, at least not for two more weeks.

The council voted 6-0 this week to delay action on the possible repeal of the city’s 2010 police ombudsman law to give it time to hire an outside attorney to analyze the possible appeal of an arbitrator’s July decision demanding that the city remove the ordinance.

The law, which strengthened the city’s original ombudsman rules from 2008, gave Ombudsman Tim Burns the power to investigate accusations of police misconduct separately from the police department’s own reviews. 

As city deals with more revelations in Zehm case, Verner campaign points to ombudsman

Mayor Mary Verner latest campaign newsletter picks a topic fresh in the news: police oversight.

Last week, Verner's campaign stressed her support for creating a police ombudsman position at City Hall. The week before, a filing in federal court detailed the position of Assistant Police Chief Jim Nicks related to the death of Otto Zehm, who died in police custody in 2006. Nicks has told federal investigators that Officer Karl F. Thompson Jr. violated department use-of-force policies and that detectives failed to thoroughly investigate Zehm's death.

Verner has indeed been on record supporting the creation of the position for some time, but she hasn't always pushed for the kind of independent, full-time ombudsman that was envisioned in a 2007 report commissioned by the city.

In 2008, Verner said that instead of hiring a full-time ombudsman, she planned to contract out for an ombudsman on an as-needed basis because of the city's budget problems.

In a meeting with journalists in March 2008, Verner explained that a full-time ombudsman wasn't necessary.

“I don’t really think that we need an in-house, full-time employee for an ombudsman,” Verner told reporters. “I really believe that with Chief (Anne) Kirkpatrick’s leadership and the evolving good working relationship between the guild and the chief that we would have a Maytag Repairman on our hands.”

Verner's position, however, had changed when she unveiled her 2009 budget plan, which included money for a full-time ombudsman, and her newsletter is correct that she conducted a nationwide search in an open process when she hired Ombudsman Tim Burns.

Since Burns started work, some council members pushed to give Burns the power to conduct investigations separately from police. Verner initially opposed that effort, and said that it was too soon to change Burns' powers and that doing so would require negotiations with the Spokane Police Guild.

Verner argued that during an economic downturn, her goals for Police Guild negotiations were for concessions to save jobs and service over gaining more police oversight authority. Verner signed the ordinance boosting Burns' authority after the council passed it unanimously. Next week, the council will consider revoking the ordinance in response to an arbitrator who ruled that the city should have negotiated the rules with the guild.

That action, along with the ongoing federal case against Thompson, will keep police oversight one of the top issues of the campaign even after Tuesday's primary.

Today’s prediction: Fireworks ahead on ombudsman

This doesn't take a crystal ball or Karnak the Great: The city of Spokane and some of its citizens groups are headed for a heated fight over the current police ombudsman's ordinance.

The Center for Justice and others today are urging the city to appeal a recent arbitrator's decision that the expanded powers for the ombudsman had to be negotiated with the Police Guild. The council, meanwhile, is considering whether to repeal the 2010 ordinance that expanded those powers and go back to the previous configuration.

Read the full story about it here.

Ombudsman protest planned

Groups who think the city isn’t going far enough to provide oversight of its Police Department will be protesting Friday in advance of a series of “meet the ombudsman candidates” forums.

And they have a special guest protester: Shonto Pete, the Spokane man who was shot in the head by Police Officer Jay Olsen in that strange incident that started in the parking lot of Dempseys Brass Rail and ended in (not so) Peaceful Valley.

They think the city’s plan for an ombudsman falls short because the office doesn’t have independent investigative powers.

Pete, some of his family, along with Sovereignty, Health, Air, Water, Land (SHAWL) Society; NAACP, Spokane Chapter; Peace and Justice Action League of Spokane; Progressive Democrats of America, Spokane Chapter; EWU MEChA; Medicine Wheel Academy, will be setting up at the Chase Gallery in City Hall at noon Friday.

Ombudsman forums will be held Friday and Saturday. Click here for the schedule.

Police ombudsman forums this weekend

The City of Spokane will hold public forums for its police ombudsman finalists on Friday and Saturday.

There are three prospects:

Anthony Betz, of College Station, Tex., a retired FBI agent working as an adjunct professor at Texas A&M University.

Timothy Burns, of Visalia, Calif., a retired police officer working as the neighborhood preservation manager for that city.

Greg Weber, of Spokanean attorney in private practice who once  served on Washington State Attorney General’s staff.

Forums are scheduled for:

  • 5 p.m. Friday in the Chase Gallery in the lower level of City Hall, 808 W. Spokane Falls Blvd.
  • 10 a.m. Saturday at West Central Community Center, 1603 N. Belt.
  • 2 p.m. Saturday at East Central Community Center, 500 S. Stone.

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About this blog

Jim Camden is a veteran political reporter for The Spokesman-Review.


Jonathan Brunt is an enterprise reporter for The Spokesman-Review.


Kip Hill is a general assignments reporter for The Spokesman-Review.

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