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Spokane hosts national ombudsman conference

With the future of Spokane's police ombudsman program in question, the city soon will be awash in government ombudsmen (and women) arriving for an international conference on public oversight.

The United States Ombudsman Association is gathering in Spokane for its 33rd annual conference Oct. 8 to 12 at the Red Lion Inn at the Park. Training opportunities include a session on conducting independent investigations, which is a hot-button issue in Spokane where the police ombudsman is prohibited from investigating allegations of police misconduct.

Spokane's office of Police Ombudsman is hosting the conference. Last month, Spokane Mayor David Condon stunned the City Council and others by announcing the departure of the city's first police ombudsman, Tim Burns, whose contract is expiring and wasn't being renewed. Condon later asked Burns to stay through the end of the year.

Among the reasons Condon gave for avoiding a new contract for Burns is that the city could be changing the way it oversees police conduct after the mayor's Use of Force Commission completes its study of the police department.