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For police agencies, cameras that record officer encounters with the public can help prove suspects are guilty and set the record straight if officers are wrongly accused of misconduct. “It tells you the facts,” Post Falls police Capt. Pat Knight said. “It keeps us out of trouble.”
More citizens alleged misconduct by Spokane Police Department employees last year than the previous four years, but the number of complaints that resulted in discipline decreased. Police leaders attribute the uptick in complaints to the hiring of the police ombudsman. Last year was Tim Burns’ first full year on the job.
The police chief has an excellent question about the city’s cops watchdog. What, exactly, is Tim Burns’ authority?
The public knows the shaky history of police oversight in Spokane. It knows that the city used to respond to complaints against officers with intimidating countersuits. It knows that many officers are not pleased with the adoption of the Office of the Police Ombudsman and that this resistance led to that position having lesser powers than in other cities, such as Boise. The City Council knew that the public was not content with this watered-down approach, so last summer it beefed up the role of the ombudsman, allowing him to be present when officers and witnesses are interviewed.
Spokane Police Ombudsman Tim Burns also declined to certify an investigation regarding a driver who had a permit to own a handgun but was given the gun back in pieces following a traffic stop. The man, whose name was withheld from the report, informed police upon being stopped for a minor traffic offense June 27 that he had a loaded and holstered handgun. Police handcuffed the man and placed him in the back of a patrol car while they verified his gun permit.
Brian Greear remembers the sirens that prompted him to stop his car. But the 27-year-old Spokane man says he can’t remember what happened before he awoke face down in a South Hill street with a police officer’s knee in his back. “I just heard ‘Stop resisting! Stop resisting,’ ” he said.
Nearly four months after their father was shot to death by a deputy sheriff in Spokane Valley, sons of Wayne Scott Creach are still looking for answers. Police detectives investigating the case told them in September to stop calling. They haven’t heard from prosecutors reviewing the circumstances surrounding the fatal Aug. 25 shooting. The deputy involved, Brian Hirzel, remains on desk duty until a decision is made about whether the shooting was justified.
The American Civil Liberties Union says the Spokane city attorney’s office violated the constitutional rights of a local attorney. In a letter to city officials last week, Michael Kipling, an attorney representing the ACLU, said that Assistant City Attorney Rocky Treppiedi violated Breean Beggs’ rights by telling Beggs he was prohibited from talking to City Council members about proposed changes to the city’s police oversight law.
An association of Spokane police supervisors is speaking out about perceived bias and negative press coverage of Spokane officers. Released to Spokane media and city officials Wednesday, a letter – written by the Spokane Police Lieutenants and Captains Association to commissioned officers on the force – states that “The time has come to tell the citizens of Spokane in plain language that their police department is a good one.”
Almost a year after he was hired, Spokane’s police ombudsman on Monday was granted the power to investigate cases of officer misconduct. The Spokane City Council voted unanimously to increase the ombudsman’s authority after the third hearing on the topic in two months.
Her friends remember Beverly Saruwatari as a model citizen – an honored public school teacher, a goodwill ambassador on Spokane’s Nishinomiya Sister City Committee and a devoted single mother. She died suddenly one year ago today of a brain hemorrhage – 20 days after a confrontation with police in the doorway of her South Hill home.
Though we must wait another week, the Spokane City Council looks to be on the verge of adopting a stronger police ombudsman ordinance. This is good news, because the community had grown skeptical of the current version, which doesn’t allow the ombudsman, Tim Burns, to conduct independent investigations. Because the original ordinance was watered down due to worries over a police union challenge, the audience that attended Monday night’s council meeting grew wary when they heard that a new draft had been produced earlier that day. As the meeting stretched into Tuesday morning, the council voted to postpone a decision.
The long debate over the power of Spokane’s new police ombudsman will last at least one more week. Early Tuesday morning, the Spokane City Council voted 6-1 to delay a decision on a plan giving Ombudsman Tim Burns the power to conduct independent investigations into police misconduct.
The long debate over the power of Spokane’s new police ombudsman will last at least one more week. Early Tuesday morning, the Spokane City Council voted 6-1 to delay a decision on a plan giving Ombudsman Tim Burns the power to conduct independent investigations into police misconduct. Burns currently has the power only to monitor investigations conducted by the police department’s Internal Affairs division. The council has been debating on-and-off for nearly a year whether that power should expand.
Spokane City Council President Joe Shogan announced just after midnight today that there would not be a vote during the session about providing the ombudsman the power to conduct independent investigation. But testimony continued. A couple dozen people have talked, all in support of independent oversight.