Posts tagged: Tim Burns
Spokane’s first police ombudsman will keep his job for another year.
Mayor David Condon decided in August not to renew Ombudsman Tim Burns’ three-year contract. The move angered some City Council members, who questioned why Condon was willing to let the city go without an ombudsman even as the city works through recent scandals involving police misconduct.
Condon argued that it didn’t make sense to rehire Burns for three more years until the city’s Use of Force Commission makes its final recommendation about a new oversight model. The city’s ombudsman law only allowed for three-year terms.
After outcry from the City Council, however, Condon soon reversed course, offering to let Burns stay until the end of the year, and the council changed the law to allow flexibility in the length of ombudsman’s tenure.
On Monday, the City Council approved unanimously a deal between Condon and Burns that allows Burns to continue leading the city’s police oversight program until Aug. 2.
The Spokane City Council appears ready to challenge Mayor David Condon’s decision to release the city’s police ombudsman.
Condon has decided not to renew Ombudsman Tim Burns’ three-year contract. His last day is Oct. 31, though he’ll be using up vacation for the last month.
Council President Ben Stuckart said Friday that he is sponsoring a resolution requesting that Condon keep Burns on as ombudsman at least until a new police oversight system is in place. He hopes to win at least five votes for the proposal so a vote can take place on Monday.
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.
Tonight's Spokane City Council meeting was halted for about three minutes after a few protesters stood in the audience and initially refused to sit or leave the room.
The protesters were from Sensible Washington, a group that supports marijuana legalization. They stood during the annual report to the council from Police Ombudsman Tim Burns, prompting City Council President Joe Shogan to order them to sit or leave.
Rebeckah Aubertin, who said she is the Spokane recruiter for Sensible Washington, held two large signs. One read: “Stop funding dirty cops.” Another said: “Prohibition hurts family.”
When they refused to comply Shogan asked Police Detective Ben Estes to remove them and the meeting stopped.
Referring to the money the city spends for a police ombudsman's office, Aubertin told the crowd, “Fiscal responsibility would be nice, as well.”
Shogan responded: “I don't know what the hell you're talking about, lady, but that's fine.”
After talking with the protesters for a couple minutes, Estes persuaded them to leave and he escorted them outside the council chambers peacefully. About ten people from Sensible Washington stayed in the lobby of the chambers for most the rest of the meeting.
Tim Loe, who also was escorted from the meeting, said he was protesting because he has been repeatedly harassed by police as a result of his use of medical marijuana.
At one point during his negotiations with the protesters, Estes told Aubertin that signs were not permitted in the hearing.
Aubertin claimed that she wasn't holding protest signs: “These are art projects,” she said.
Shogan overheard the conversation.
“Yeah, and I'm Leonardo da Vinci,” he said.
Burns' report is available here.
UPDATE: City Spokeswoman Marlene Feist said this afternoon that Verner will sign the ordinance.
Spokane Mayor Mary Verner said Tuesday that she supports the “overall intent” of the police oversight ordinance approved by City Council and “likely” will sign it.
She added, however, that she still has to read the final version before making a final decision.
Verner made the comments at the end of Monday’s council meeting, which ended Tuesday morning.
It’s past midnight here at the Spokane City Council. City Council President Joe Shogan recently announced that there will not be a vote tonight (or more accurately, this morning) about providing ombudsman the power to conduct independent investigation. But testimony is continuing. So far, a couple dozen people have talked, all in support of independent oversight.
The city hired its first ombudsman last summer, but rules haven’t allowed him to investigate allegations into police misconduct. Instead, he shadows police internal investigations and decides if the police have been thorough and fair.
In an interview last week, Ombudsman Tim Burns said he believes his office should have investigative authority. In a brief interview before the meeting, Mayor Mary Verner said she would wait to see the final version approved by the council before deciding if she would support giving the ombudsman investigative power. Verner said she hasn’t talked to Burns about his current opinion on the topic.
“I don’t know how much that (Burns’ opinion about the need for independent investigatory authority) reflects a need for a change in the ordinance,” Verner said.
The Spokane Police Guild, in an interview with Spokane Public Radio, has threatened to challenge any ordinance that expands the ombudsman’s authority. The most recent proposal under consideration would give Burns the power to begin interviewing witnesses as soon as a complaint is received. Burns would not have the power to interview guild members. (Related: Previous proposal, held over from the May 24 City Council meeting.)