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Spokane police ombudsman search to start over after Canadian candidate’s visa denied

From staff reports

Spokane must start over on finding a new police ombudsman.

Raheel Humayun, the Canadian citizen who was offered the job of ombudsman in November, was denied a visa, according to the Office of the Police Ombudsman Commission.

Now a five-member selection committee must find three new finalists for the job and forward those names to the ombudsman commission for consideration, Deb Conklin, chair of the commission, said in a news release. That process is required by city ordinance.

“The (commission) was concerned from the beginning that the only viable candidate for our ombudsman, among the candidates forwarded to the commission by the first selection committee … was someone who would require us to go through this time-consuming visa process,” the release said.

That search committee was disbanded. A second search committee was formed to find candidates for an interim ombudsman, and that committee will conduct the new search, Conklin said in an interview. The previous search committee took nine months to come up with three candidates.

“I can’t imagine them taking nine months,” she said of the new committee. “With the interim they were very quick and efficient.”

Rick Eichstaedt, executive director of the Center for Justice, is eager to have the ombudsman position filled.

“More than enough time has passed,” he said. “We need to focus on finding a permanent ombudsman.”

Tim Burns, Spokane’s first police ombudsman, left that job in January 2015.

Two of the first batch of three finalists identified for his replacement were rejected as unsuitable, and the job was offered to Humayun in late November. As a condition of his employment, he was required to get a visa to work in the U.S. within 75 days.

Humayun was rejected for an expedited visa application in March. Commissioners decided to continue tweaking the application and have him reapply for the same visa at the U.S.-Canada border.

The commission appointed an interim ombudsman in February – Bart Logue, a former diplomat and Marine Corps provost marshal.

Earlier this month Spokane Mayor David Condon and City Council President Ben Stuckart urged the ombudsman commission to go ahead and appoint Logue to the job permanently.

“Mr. Logue has demonstrated his qualifications, character, and desire to serve in this capacity,” they said in a letter to the commission.

But Conklin said that doing that would violate the rules set forth in the city ordinance. “That is not a legitimate process,” she said. “It’s not one I would condone.”

Logue would make a good candidate for the permanent position, Conklin said. “He will be encouraged to apply,” she said.

Conklin said she is deeply frustrated with the “unwieldy” process required to select an ombudsman. A public forum is planned for 5:30 p.m. Tuesday in the council chambers in City Hall to discuss possible changes to the ombudsman ordinance.

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