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The Spokesman-Review Newspaper

The Spokesman-Review Newspaper The Spokesman-Review

Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Council limits police reviews

Spokane’s police ombudsman on Monday lost the power to independently investigate misconduct allegations against the city’s law enforcement officers. The Spokane City Council voted 5-2 Monday to repeal police oversight rules it approved unanimously last year, blaming an arbitrator’s decision in July that determined the expanded powers violated the Spokane Police Guild’s labor contract.

Council delays ombudsman vote

The Spokane City Council isn’t giving up on stronger police oversight, at least not for two more weeks. The council voted 6-0 this week to delay a decision on whether to repeal the expanded investigative power given to the city’s ombudsman in 2010. The delay will give an outside attorney time to see whether a labor arbitrator’s July decision demanding the city repeal the ordinance should be appealed. The law, which strengthened the city’s original ombudsman rules from 2008, gave Ombudsman Tim Burns the power to investigate accusations of police misconduct separately from the police department’s own reviews.

Panel won’t overturn decision on police ombudsman’s powers

Efforts to expand the Spokane police ombudsman’s authority to conduct independent investigations into alleged officer misconduct have suffered another blow. The state Public Employment Relations Commission has not only rejected a request from the City Council to consider overturning an arbitrator’s decision blocking the expansion; it sent a letter highly critical of Spokane’s legal strategy, noting it was the city that opted for arbitration rather than a commission review.

Council debates oversight rules

Spokane City Council members suggested they may need voters to save the stronger police oversight rules they approved last year, by working to place the concept on the ballot. Passions were high during the council’s Monday meeting as they discussed overturning police oversight rules. The debate included a few shouting matches between attendees and Council President Joe Shogan.

Council debates ombudsman appeal

The Spokane City Council appears headed for a showdown over whether to appeal a decision limiting the powers of the city’s police ombudsman. The mention of a proposed ordinance accepting the decision of an arbitrator and rolling back the investigative powers approved last year showed a sharply divided council Monday afternoon. The hearing on the ordinance is at least two weeks away.

Council could change ombudsman rules

Three Spokane groups are urging the City of Spokane to challenge an arbitrator's ruling that the police ombudsman's authority was improperly expanded. But the council could go the other way, and repeal the ordinance that added those powers.

Police ombudsman rules downgraded

An arbitrator this week revoked a law that strengthened Spokane’s police ombudsman powers because the city did not consult the Spokane Police Guild before it was approved last year. The decision by arbitrator Michael H. Beck effectively reverses rules that strengthened the ability of police Ombudsman Tim Burns to investigate alleged officer misconduct independently of police. The opinion was dated Monday; the city received it Tuesday.

Officer’s text message ruled a factor in pedestrian fatality

A Spokane police officer who hit and killed an intoxicated pedestrian in his patrol car in January was typing a message into his onboard computer just before the crash. Officer Gordon Ennis told investigators he sent the message to another officer just before he struck John A. Van Curler at West Montgomery Avenue while southbound on North Monroe Street on Jan. 30.

Complaints against police rose in 2010

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.

Editorial: Police chief’s comment no help in establishing role of ombudsman

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.