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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

Sirens & Gavels

Selection committee for new ombudsman struggles to select final member

Pastor Shon Davis and Whitworth University history professor Lawrence Burnley were among the names considered for the final seat on the committee to search for a new Spokane police ombudsman.

But after a half-hour of sometimes pointed discussion Tuesday morning, the committee’s four members agreed to hold off on selecting a community representative until candidates could be interviewed.

The committee, which is composed of City Attorney Nancy Isserlis, ombudsman Commissioner Adrian Dominguez, Spokane Police Capt. Brad Arleth and Sgt. John Griffin, identified Davis and Tommy Williams, president of the faith-based organization Operation Healthy Family, as top candidates for the seat at an informal meeting last week.

But Dominguez said Tuesday that conversations with several members of Spokane’s NAACP raised concerns that Davis and Williams did not have enough community support to serve on the search committee.


“The fifth person should be somebody that the community wants, that is well respected,” he said. “I just don’t see Shon Davis or Tommy Williams fitting those roles.”

He suggested Burnley, who is a member of the NAACP, as an alternative, and said the committee risked creating animosity with the city’s African-American community if it ignored their feedback.

Arleth and Griffin said they were concerned about allowing one organization to sway the selection process, since the committee member should represent the whole community.

Arleth said in 23 years working for Spokane police, he’s never encountered Burley at a conference or event related to policing or criminal justice.

“I’m not aware of any of his previous interest in criminal justice or government in the city of Spokane,” he said.

Isserlis made a motion to appoint Davis to the commission, but withdrew the motion after discussion, citing the need for committee agreement.

“I think we’d be getting off to a difficult start if we didn’t have a consensus on who this fifth member should be,” she said.

Instead, the committee will meet Jan. 20 to discuss possible candidates, and at a later date to interview Davis, Burnley and any other potential members.

Once seated, the five-member committee is tasked with identifying three finalists for a new police ombudsman. The final selection of an ombudsman is made by the police ombudsman commission.

Rachel Alexander
Rachel Alexander came to the Spokesman-Review in 2014 after working for the Walla Walla Union-Bulletin. She covers social services, health and science for the City Desk and writes a monthly data-focused column, Know Spokane.

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