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City Council delays vote on ombudsman request

Spokane City Council President Joe Shogan announced just after midnight today that there would not be a vote during the session about providing the ombudsman the power to conduct independent investigation.

The hearing didn’t start until nearly 11 p.m. But testimony continued. A couple dozen people 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.


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