The city announced today that Spokane Mayor David Condon will extend the contract of Police Ombudsman Tim Burns until the end of the year. He previously was set to leave the post next month.
City Spokeswoman Marlene Feist said in a news release today that Condon made the decision following concerns expressed by City Council members and to ”smooth the transition to an enhanced model of civilian oversight for police.”
”We are on track to enhance civilian oversight of the Spokane Police Department, and this new timeline will allow for greater discussion and thoughtfulness,” Condon said in the release. ”I want to work with the Council and the community to develop the best path forward.”
Later today the Spokane City Council is expected to consider a proproposed emergency change the ombudsman ordinance to allow Mayor Condon to extend the ”current” police ombudsman’s employment without offering a full three-year contract.
Condon was ready to sever ties with Burns ”until we put some public pressure on him,” Council President Ben Stuckart said in an interview after the Public Safety meeting. ”If not, this would not be happening.”
Stuckart said in the meeting that Condon told him that he would be open to keeping Burns as ombudsman until city leaders can further explore oversight options.
”We want to appoint (Burns) until we have a permanent solution in place as far as oversight … so we don’t have a situation where we don’t have an ombudsman,” Stuckart said.
Feist said Condon is waiting for a recommendation from the Use of Force Commission on oversight, and he expects to name a new Police Chief by the end of the month. The city also is currently negotiating a new contract with the Spokane Police Guild.
But Councilman Jon Snyder said none of those issues should hold up the city’s decision to retain Burns. As a result, he said he would not support the proposed ordinance change.
”I think we should just be renewing his contract for another three years,” Snyder said. ”In my mind, it is all that more important to ahve somebody who knows the Spokane Police Department and also knows folks outside City Hall.
”This is not a position that benefits from high turnover. It benefits from continuity.”
Councilman Mike Fagan agreed with Snyder.
”This is not a position in City Hall where you want a lot of turnover,” he said.