Spokane’s first police ombudsman will keep his job for another year.
Mayor David Condon decided in August not to renew Ombudsman Tim Burns’ three-year contract. The move angered some City Council members, who questioned why Condon was willing to let the city go without an ombudsman even as the city works through recent scandals involving police misconduct.
Condon argued that it didn’t make sense to rehire Burns for three more years until the city’s Use of Force Commission makes its final recommendation about a new oversight model. The city’s ombudsman law only allowed for three-year terms.
After outcry from the City Council, however, Condon soon reversed course, offering to let Burns stay until the end of the year, and the council changed the law to allow flexibility in the length of ombudsman’s tenure.
On Monday, the City Council approved unanimously a deal between Condon and Burns that allows Burns to continue leading the city’s police oversight program until Aug. 2.
City Council President Ben Stuckart said the length of the deal should allow enough time for the city to review the Use of Force report and for the city to negotiate with the Spokane Police Guild, which likely will have to approve a new oversight system. The report still has not been finished; it had been expected last month.
Police Chief Frank Straub said Burns’ reappointment is “a good short-term solution.”
“It gives us continuity and it gives us stability in the ombudsman position,” he said.
Councilman Jon Snyder said he would have preferred a three-year contract because he believes Burns will be the right person for the job no matter how the oversight system shifts.
“It’s not a position that benefits from high turnover,” he said.
Councilman Mike Fagan said though he’s impressed with Burns’ work, he supports the one-year deal.
“It’s just a matter of retaining some flexibility,” he said.