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The Spokesman-Review Newspaper
Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

Body camera footage access extended to members of Police Ombudsman Office

The Spokane Police Guild and Interim Police Ombudsman Bart Logue have come to an agreement expanding access to officers’ body camera footage.

Logue’s assistant will have access to digitally stored body camera footage turned over to the Office of Police Ombudsman for review in specific cases. However, only Logue will be allowed to critically view the footage to offer suggestions and recommendations to police.

The agreement was brokered outside of the collective bargaining process, as originally requested by the Spokane Police Guild, the union representing the majority of officers in the department. Logue met with Sgt. John Griffin, president of the guild, and appointed Chief Craig Meidl last week to work on a compromise.

“It’s going in the right direction,” Logue told City Council members at a meeting of the city’s Public Safety Committee on Monday. “It’s great to be able to clarify some things from both sides.”

Griffin had argued in a letter sent on behalf of the guild earlier this summer that expanding access to footage could result in a change in working conditions for police officers and wasn’t in line with an ordinance outlining the ombudsman office’s authority. He requested collective bargaining to address the concern.

But Logue argued that the ordinance and the guild’s contract were written to allow his assistant access, arguing the portions of the city ordinance governing record access encompassed the “office of the police ombudsman,” not just the ombudsman.

City Councilman Breean Beggs is working on a new version of the police ombudsman ordinance and distributed a draft to his colleagues at the meeting Monday.

Beggs said there was “no timetable” for when a finalized revision to the ordinance could come before the whole council for a vote.

The city’s contract with the Police Guild expires at the end of the year. A major sticking point in negotiations was the role and authority of the ombudsman’s office, and whether the scope of its investigations matched up with a voter-approved ordinance that established the office in 2013.

City Council members voted against a contract they believed did not give enough oversight authority to the ombudsman before approving the current contract in June 2014.

That process is scheduled to begin again this fall.

Logue said he expected his assistant would have access to body camera footage within the next several days. He sent a formal request to the Spokane Police Department’s internal affairs unit on Friday.