City officials have a new strategy to achieve independent police oversight after multiple failed attempts: Let the voters decide. Spokane City Council members Steve Salvatori and Mike Allen want to ask voters in February to approve a city charter amendment creating a police ombudsman position with the ability to investigate alleged police abuse separately from the Police Department’s internal affairs division. The plan also would create a citizen board that would oversee the ombudsman.
Here’s where we stand, in terms of policing the police: One of the most hopeful signs about the latest proposal for true independent oversight is that it’s all bark and no bite. That’s right. All bark and no bite – that’s the selling point.
Advocates of greater police accountability are again pushing to give Spokane’s police ombudsman independent investigative authority. The Center for Justice presented a proposed ordinance during a news conference Thursday, noting that the time is right to push for the expanded authority because the city’s labor contract with the Spokane Police Guild has expired and a new one is being negotiated.
Spokane’s first police ombudsman will keep his job for another year. Mayor David Condon decided in August against renewing Ombudsman Tim Burns’ three-year contract. The move angered some City Council members, who questioned Condon’s willingness to let the city go without an ombudsman even as the city works through recent scandals involving police misconduct.
The Spokane City Council appears ready to challenge Mayor David Condon’s decision to dismiss the city’s first police ombudsman. Tim Burns, who helped pioneer Spokane’s still-fledgling police oversight program, was informed on Monday by City Administrator Theresa Sanders that his three-year contract would not be renewed. His last day is Oct. 31, though he’ll be using up vacation for the last month.
Spokane’s first police ombudsman will soon be out of a job, and the city may be without a permanent replacement for several months. Mayor David Condon has decided not to renew Ombudsman Tim Burns’ three-year contract that expires Aug. 24, said City Administrator Theresa Sanders. He will keep his job, however, until Oct. 31.
A disagreement between the interim Spokane police chief and the ombudsman about how a police misconduct allegation should be investigated has been resolved after witnesses came forward with new information. A meeting scheduled last Friday between Interim Chief Scott Stephens, Ombudsman Tim Burns and Mayor David Condon never happened because Stephens informed Condon of his intention to investigate the accusation that police bruised a woman’s arms while handcuffing her at her home in early April.
A disagreement between the interim Spokane police chief and the police ombudsman about the handling of a recent complaint is getting the mayor’s attention. Ombudsman Tim Burns is asking Mayor David Condon to force the Spokane Police Department to investigate a complaint that arose when officers responded to a report of possible domestic violence at a home in the city.
Scott Stephens was taught by his father to respect everyone and never to lay hands on someone in anger, Spokane’s interim police chief said. That’s why it was hard for him, as a young patrol officer, to adapt to the requirements of his job.
Spokane’s elected leaders are ready to push for the use of body cameras on police officers to record their interactions with the public. The Spokane City Council on Feb. 6 will vote on a resolution outlining its goals for reforming the Spokane Police Department in the aftermath of an officer being convicted of violating the civil rights of a Spokane man who died in police custody.
The Spokane City Council has unveiled its list of proposed police reforms, including body cameras for officers, restored independent investigative authority for the police ombudsman and posting internal affairs investigations on the Internet.