Police ombudsman commissioners say they have a tough choice selecting one of three men vying for the city’s independent police oversight job.
Ombudsman commission chair Deb Conklin said several people told her they’d come into the day’s forums with a clear opinion on who the ombudsman should be based on reading the candidates’ resumes, but changed their minds after hearing all three speak.
“It means that today was worth it,” she said.
The finalists include Allen Huggins, a retired police captain with the Costa Mesa police department in Orange County; Robert Breeden, a retired agent from the Florida Department of Law Enforcement who oversaw the criminal investigations division for the Miami area; and Raheel Humayun, an investigator with the British Columbia Office of the Ombudsperson.
Humayun is the only candidate who’s not a former law enforcement officer, though he worked as a forensic investigator for the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, Canada’s equivalent of the FBI.
He said his experience working with law enforcement gave him enough context to do an oversight job without raising concerns about impartiality.
“Why does any city take the extraordinary step to appoint a civilian oversight head? It’s because of the optics of the police department investigating themselves,” he said.
Huggins moved to Coeur d’Alene in 2013 and currently works as a code enforcement officer in Post Falls. He said he brings the most relevant investigative experience, with more than a decade in the Costa Mesa internal affairs department, which he helped establish.
“I know what a good IA (Internal Affairs) looks like. I know what a bad IA looks like … I don’t think the others have that perspective,” he said.
Breeden cited his experience at multiple law enforcement agencies, including the Tallahassee Police Department and the Gadsden County Sheriff’s Office, and his educational credentials, which include the FBI academy and a master’s degree in criminal justice.
“I’m not just coming from one perspective,” he said.
All three men agreed the city’s ordinance governing the police ombudsman’s office falls short of giving the ombudsman the independent investigative authority voters hoped for when they passed Proposition 1.
That intention “has been impeded,” Breeden said.
Huggins said the fact the ombudsman can’t open an investigation until police have completed an internal review raises concerns about the timeliness of the process.
“Justice delayed is justice denied. I don’t agree with that whatsoever,” he said.
Both said having an ombudsman sit in on police department interviews was not the same as a truly independent investigation. Humayun disagreed.
“Not every instance warrants a re-inventing of the wheel and coming in and alienating an entire police department by wielding my jurisdiction and saying I’m investigating this on my own,” he said.
But he said he too had concerns about whether the ombudsman had enough power to conduct a meaningful investigation if the IA one is not timely, thorough and objective.
The city’s civilian police oversight commission will deliberate and take public comments at a Sept. 1 meeting. A final decision could be made at a special Sept. 9 meeting.
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