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Burns stepping down as Spokane police ombudsman

Burns
Burns

After five and a half years on the job, Spokane’s first police ombudsman announced Friday he’ll retire in early 2015.

Tim Burns announced his resignation after informal talks earlier in the week with city officials, and said he’s been considering stepping down for several months.

“I thought the timing was apropos,” he said, since the five-member citizen police ombudsman commission was seated earlier this year.

Burns came to Spokane from Visalia, California, and plans to return to the San Francisco Bay Area to spend time with his family.

He said he’s received several job offers in the area doing community development work but declined to say what the offers were.

Spokane City Council President Ben Stuckart said Burns’ departure would be a loss for the community.

“He’s a stand-up guy and he’s done everything possible to really move the police department and citizen oversight of the police department forward,” he said.

The city created an ombudsman position in 2008 in response to questions about police conduct and use of force. Burns was hired for the position in 2009 and received a three-year contract extension Nov. 4, by a 4-1 vote of the five-member citizen ombudsman commission.

His total compensation for 2013 was $101,663.

Burns’ last day will be Jan. 2, but he said he plans to stay on in an advisory role while a search committee hires his replacement.

While he hasn’t had much time to reflect on his tenure as ombudsman, he said he is proud of the work his office has done to build relationships with the community and establish police oversight.

“We’ll be judged in the years to come on how successful we were, but I’m reasonably happy on where we’re at on this point in time,” he said.

The Spokane Municipal Code calls for a five-member panel to select a new ombudsman. The Spokane Police Guild, Spokane Police Lieutenants and Captains Association, City Council and mayor each appoint a member to the committee, with a fifth member to be selected by the other four.

That committee then recommends three candidates to the ombudsman commission, which must select one as the new ombudsman.

Councilman Jon Snyder, who chairs the Public Safety Committee, said he will urge the council to appoint the fifth member at the next meeting Monday.

“I want us to get moving on this fast. I don’t think it’s good for the city to be without an ombudsman for any length of time,” he said.


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