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The city of Spokane has begun the search for a police ombudsman, a position that got strong public support after several recent controversies, including the 2006 death of mentally disabled janitor Otto Zehm in a confrontation with police. The job will pay $77,130 to $94,628 annually. The successful applicant will be appointed for a three-year term and can be reappointed to a second three-year term. The deadline to apply is Feb. 27.
Spokane Mayor Mary Verner and the Spokane Police Guild have reached a tentative agreement on a new ombudsman's office that would review citizen complaints but leave officer discipline to the police chief.
The law firm representing the family of Otto Zehm is critical of Mayor Mary Verner's suggestion that the city doesn't need a full-time police ombudsman.
Spokane can't afford a full-time police ombudsman, says Mayor Mary Verner. Instead, Verner has proposed contracting for ombudsman services to keep costs lower.
In most elections, candidates for office in the city of Spokane face a basic question about police: Are there enough of them to do the job? Candidates might argue yes or no, but the debate centers mainly on the budget. This year, however, police and politics collide in a different way, as candidates are being forced to discuss how police are doing their job.
Spokane's all-volunteer Citizen's Review Commission no longer has the trust of the public to monitor police misconduct and should be replaced by a full-time police ombudsman appointed by and answerable to the mayor, a Seattle consultant recommends. "Maintaining the status quo is simply not a credible option," the consultant's 39-page report says.
A new model for citizen oversight of police in Spokane is needed and on the way, Police Chief Anne Kirkpatrick told an audience Tuesday night as they flooded her with questions and issues about misconduct. When she was hired as chief only four months ago, Kirkpatrick said she knew the issues of police accountability and citizen oversight "were huge topics in this community because of the high-profile cases that had occurred."