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Doug Clark: Discrepancies abound in ombudsman criteria

The bombshell caught Spokane by surprise. Mayor David Condon says he WON’T renew Tim Burns’ contract as the city’s so-called police ombudsman.

The mayor is not without a heart, however.

Although the ombudsman’s three-year contract expires Aug. 24, Condon is letting Burns hang around until Oct. 31 and take a few city of Spokane promotional lapel pins with him to remember his time here.

Not everybody is on board with Boy Mayor on this one.

Council President Ben Stuckart, say. He’s drafting a resolution that would force Condon to keep Burns on at least until the new police oversight system can afford another nanny cam.

Meanwhile, the mayor says he intends to re-engineer the ombudsman position as soon as he gets done hiring a new police chief, probably that shifty guy from Indianapolis who’s never actually been a cop but does have all the “Columbo” episodes on DVD.

I fully support the mayor on the first half of that plan.

Anyone who has followed Spokane’s frustrating ombudsman debacle knows we can’t go down this same potholed road again.

To recap: The ombudsman was originally intended to be someone who would investigate citizen complaints of police abuse after all the bandages were removed.

Quickly after Burns was hired, however, it became apparent that there had been one of those silly miscommunications that happen quite often in government.

Everyone in the public – me included – thought we had just hired an impartial watchdog to keep an eye on Spokane’s troubled police department.

Spokane Police Guild officials, however, thought we had just hired someone to keep the Riverfront Park gondola rides running.

So instead of making his mark as an ombudsman, Burns had to settle for making his mark as the city official with the longest ponytail.

Now we need to start over and ask ourselves:

What do we really want in a police ombudsman?

To find out, I examined both sides of this heated issue extensively and assembled the following Ombudsman Wish List that Mayor Condon can use if he ever gets back from Indiana.

PUBLIC WANTS: A police ombudsman with the power to investigate police misconduct.

GUILD WANTS: An omdudsman with the power to remove tough stains from mayor’s office carpet.

PUBLIC WANTS: A police ombudsman with vision.

GUILD WANTS: An omdudsman with Stevie Wonder vision.

PUBLIC WANTS: An ombudsman who views the cup as half full, not half empty.

GUILD WANTS: An omdudsman who doesn’t care as long as the cup’s got beer in it.

PUBLIC WANTS: A police ombudsman with an iron backbone.

GUILD WANTS: An omdudsman with the backbone of a caterpillar.

PUBLIC WANTS: A police ombudsman who considers The Truth above all else.

GUILD WANTS: An omdudsman who considers Larry the best of all Stooges.

PUBLIC WANTS: A police ombudsman with plenty of law enforcement experience.

GUILD WANTS: An omdudsman who’s eaten his weight in free donuts.

PUBLIC WANTS: A police ombudsman with a formidable work ethic.

GUILD WANTS: An omdudsman who knows the value of naps.

PUBLIC WANTS: An ombudsman who thinks outside the box.

GUILD WANTS: An omdudsman who consults the phone book before dialing 911.

PUBLIC WANTS: A police ombudsman who lives to serve the people.

GUILD WANTS: An omdudsman who will serve coffee at Police Guild holiday parties.

Doug Clark can be reached at (509) 459-5432 or dougc@spokesman.com.

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