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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Spokane Police Guild members overwhelmingly approve contract

Members of the Spokane Police Guild voted overwhelmingly Friday to accept a five-year labor contract that includes new provisions for investigations by the police ombudsman.

The contract, already approved by the Spokane City Council, should take effect immediately, said Council President Ben Stuckart.

“I think it shows the Guild and the council and the mayor work together,” he said. The vote was 201-14, Stuckart said.

Police Guild board member J.D. Anderson said he was pleased that the contract two years in the making was approved. “We finally got something that we both can agree on, so that’s good,” he said.

The contract also includes an annual 2 percent raise for police officers, retroactive from 2012 through 2015. There are no pay increases for 2016, but officers will receive an increase in “deferred compensation,” which is similar to a 401(k) retirement plan.

Under the new contract the ombudsman has the right to conduct an independent investigation if the department declines to open an investigation and the Police Ombudsman Commission disagrees with that decision. The commission also will have the authority to continue investigating a case if commission members believe it was not investigated thoroughly by the department.

The contract includes language allowing the use of body cameras, which the city has already purchased, said city spokesman Brian Coddington. The city will work in conjunction with the Spokane Police Guild to create policies and procedures covering the use of the cameras, he said. “The expectation is that they’ll be on police officers by the end of the year,” Coddington said. “They’re coming.”

Some cameras are being tested now, Anderson said, but the guild has concerns about the privacy of witnesses and crime victims. “A lot of us, we like the idea of cameras,” he said. “We’ve got to make sure that everybody’s rights are protected. We’ll just work on it and try to hammer it out.”

The contract is similar to one agreed to by the guild and Mayor David Condon last year, but the City Council rejected that contract because they didn’t believe it provided strong enough civilian oversight of the department, as called for in an updated City Charter approved by voters last year. Previously, the ombudsman could only participate in the department’s investigations but couldn’t conduct his own.

Many in the community have been critical of the new contract, saying that while it may improve citizen oversight of police, it doesn’t go far enough.

Stuckart said he doesn’t think there’s a way to make everyone happy, and the contract contains more independent oversight than any police department he’s familiar with in the Northwest.

“I think it meets the intent of the charter,” he said. “This is a huge win for the citizens.”

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