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Tell Mayor Condon: independent investigations & nothing less!


Carl Maxey, attorney and civil rights worker, said in 1975:Spokane deserves police accountability!

“There must be a viable method for getting a full and complete investigation when a death is caused by a policeman.” And 38 years later, our community’s long struggle for real oversight of police is at a pivotal moment–and YOUR voice is needed!

We won a 70% Yes vote for Police Accountability in February this year. Our votes mean our city charter now mandates independent investigations of police misconduct. And we’ll settle for nothing less!

But now, Mayor Condon has not only failed to negotiate for independent investigations in his new “tentative agreement” with the police union. He has also now produced a new ordinance that muddles the Ombudsman’s involvement in Internal Affairs-run investigations even further and clearly violates Prop 1–ALL with NO written assurances that the Police Guild won’t file a challenge against the ordinance. Police accountability advocates are calling this combination “the worst of all possible worlds.”

The 3 Most Important Things You Can Do:
1. NOW: email Councilmembers–vote NO on the contract AGAIN and NO on the ordinance. We won’t accept anything less than what our votes mandated in our city charter! (See below for sample message you can edit, and post your letter in the comments below!)
2. TOMORROW: come to the Mayor’s public forum Thursday Dec 12, 6pm to 8pm, at West Central Community Center, 1603 N. Belt.
3. MONDAY: come to City Council Monday Dec 16, starting 6pm to show your support for the will of the voters or to testify.

Tim Burns, the current Police Ombudsman, has testified to City Council that having the investigating body (Internal Affairs) inside the institution it’s investigating (the Spokane Police Department) constitutes “institutional bias.” Condon’s new ordinance would entangle the Ombudsman further into the institutionally biased process! We need to make sure Internal Affairs investigations are unbiased and complete–NOT prevent independent investigations from outside the Police Department. Let’s say NO to Condon’s ordinance and (again!) to the TA with the guild.

Read the Tentative Agreement here and the new ordinance here.

The Legal Background:
The Mayor’s office can’t point to one RCW or court decision that says an Ombudsman can’t perform independent investigations. There is a small chance that a court could rule that the right to do those investigations must be bargained for, so Mayor Condon should be spending his energy bargaining for it as required by our city charter. If the Guild doesn’t agree to bargain for it, an arbitrator will decide the issue. We would likely win given past decisions by the Public Employee Relations Commission. But if not, our legislators have told us that only after we lost at arbitration would they change state law to explicitly give cities the right to independent oversight–so even losing at arbitration would be a win. If the Mayor and Council simply accept a Tentative Agreement with the police guild that doesn’t comply with our city charter, we will essentially be saying that we will never try to pass any law that the Guild doesn’t agree to, which is the opposite of bargaining–and it’s contrary to our city charter and our state constitution which vests all power with the voters.

Sample message: 

Send to:,,,,,,,

Dear Councilmembers, Council President, and Mayor Condon,

I am writing to urge you to reject the new proposed ordinance and the Tentative Agreement with the Police Guild. When Spokane voters gave our 70% yes vote to mandate independent investigations in our city charter, our community’s will was made crystal clear.

Our community deserves independent investigations. Our police department deserves independent investigations. It’s time! And we’ll settle for nothing less!

Mayor Condon should be spending his energy bargaining for independent investigations as required by our city charter. There is no substitute for independent investigations.


Post your letter in the comments below! 


Dear Mayor Condon,

There is a saying about a farm yard animal and lipstick, you know the one- it refers to an attempt to repackage established policies or ideas and present them as new. If ever there were an apt adage for what is happening at City Hall right now regarding the Police Ombudsman issue and the implementation of Prop 1, this is it.

It is not true that state law prohibits Spokane from investing its Ombudsman with independent investigative authority. State law allows cities like Spokane to have robust civilian oversight of their police department. The citizens know it, the police department knows it and you know it. Your attempt to effectively repeal Prop 1 is an abuse of power that is clearly a devastating blow to the intent that the citizens of Spokane had when you were elected.

It is up to our City Council once again, to continue to stand for what our community has said loudly and clearly, over and over, by rejecting the TA again Monday night. We are in this for as long as it takes to get it right.

Patty Gates

My letter to the Editor – keeping it to the required 200 words makes it difficult to say much at all:

Editor, Spokesman Review

Mayor David Condon and Police Chief Frank Straub are working to convince Spokane residents they cannot have real police accountability, and that the tentative agreement (TA) is as good as it gets.

This TA violates Proposition 1, approved by a 70% vote, which would establish real accountability and is now part of our city charter. This agreement will put the city in blatant violation of that charter, expose the city to an expensive lawsuit, and loss of whatever public trust might remain for the SPD.

With blatant trickery and deceit, Condon, Straub and the Guild are asking public bodies to support this compromised agreement in duplicitous presentations in which only part of the truth is told, and in some cases, blatant untruths, such as the presentation at the Community Assembly on Dec. 5.

The people of Spokane spoke loud and clear through Prop 1: real independent investigative authority, not “almost independent”, not “investigation by commission”, not “monitor Internal Affairs”, but “Independent Investigation by the ombudsman”.

I’m asking my city council member to vote no on this violation of the city charter, and of the people’s 70 percent vote.

Marianne Torres

The voters of Spokane have spoken loud and clear on this issue, not in the mincy-mousey mumblings of the Mayor, the Chief and the police guild. In the clear, concise words of George McGrath, “Do what the voters told you to do!”

It’s pretty simple. The people of Spokane voted overwhelmingly for independent investigations by the ombudsman. So why are the mayor and council trying to water down that part of the agreement? Do the mayor and council run Spokane at the people’s behest, or is the Police Guild actually in charge? Maybe the Guild should supply an officer in full riot gear to stand by at every council meeting, so the city and the people fully understand who runs things around here.
Police have a very hard job. That job is made harder if they do not have the support and trust of ordinary citizens. Without independent oversight we lose trust in our police department. The ombudsman must be independent and have the ability to investigate all complaints.

I do not want to live in a city where the police are our enemies. We can create a police department that is more enlightened and is willing to work with citizens to serve and protect, as their motto states.

The famous philosopher, Goethe, said, “I have come to the frightening conclusion that I am the decisive element. It is my personal approach that creates the climate. It is my daily mood that makes the weather. I possess tremendous power to make a life miserable or joyous. I can be a tool of torture or an instrument of inspiration. I can humiliate or humor, hurt or heal. In all situations, it is my response that decides whether a crisis will be escalated or de-escalated and a person humanized or dehumanized.

If we treat people as they are, we make them worse. If we treat people as they ought to be, we help them become what they are capable of becoming.”

Please help the police department to live up to its motto, by making them accountable, with a fully independent ombudsman.
Thank you,
Pat Hughes

Dear Council Members, Council President, and Mayor Condon,

I am writing to urge you to REJECT the new proposed ordinance and the Tentative Agreement with the Police Guild.

When Spokane voters gave our 70% YES vote to mandate independent investigations in our city charter, our community’s will was made crystal clear.

Our community deserves independent investigation. Our police department deserves independent investigations. It’s time! And we will settle for NOTHING less!

Mayor Condon should be spending his energy bargaining for independent investigations as required by our city charter. There is no substitute for independent investigations.

A good friend had this to say and I can’t say it any better so I leave you with these facts:

“State law actually allows cities like Spokane to have robust civilian oversight of their police departments.

Cities can do this one of two of ways.

They can assert their managerial prerogatives under 41.56 RCW and enact civilian oversight so long as that oversight does not directly affect officer discipline.

If a city believes the oversight it wants does affect employee discipline, it simply means it is a “mandatory” subject for collective bargaining. This means you negotiate for it and make monetary concessions, if necessary, to get what you want.

But you have to choose one or the other.

The crisis here is one caused by the Mayor himself.”


Kimberly Clifton
Long-time Spokane resident, student, mother, and VOTER!

P.S. Mayor Condon, when you were running for election I didn’t vote for you. Not for any political reasons but because I saw who you really are. You were going door to door, My friend and I were sitting outside on her porch and enjoying the warm day. We were outside watching you and overhearing you talk with neighbors and were excited by the chance to get to know you and your platform a bit more with a face-to-face interaction. You took one look at us and skipped us. You saw us and moved on to the next house. Both of us registered and informed voters, and you skipped us. Shame on you then. And shame on you now.

Spokane’s ugly trigger-happy police force is probably the main reason I have never learned to enjoy this city in the 8 years I have been here, and is likely the main reason I will move away soon. I have found the SPD appalling, frightening and out of control ever since my arrival in 2005, and I have been appalled at the astonishing lack of oversight of police by this community, who have silently let one murder after another of mostly unarmed citizens by police thugs go unexamined and unpunished. Shame!

Mayor condon and city council:
My husband, Wesley Lorier, and I were present at Westside C C 12/12 and witnessed the very clear will of your constituents. I know you all heard what was said. We respect each of you and your offices. Now it is up to you to do the right thing for citizens who trust you to do it. Thank you.

Mayor Condon, you will not be re-elected if you turn your back on the vote and will of your constituents. It’s just that simple.

Mayor Condon,

What is it about democracy that YOU do not understand? The people voted for prop 1 and your job is to follow the will of the people.

This is the message I sent to the City Council members:

I am writing to urge you to reject Mayor Condon’s proposal to diminish the authority of the police ombudsman. I have been an attorney in Spokane for nearly thirty years. The beating of Otto Zehm occurred only a block from our office. As I read about the events in the case, it became clear that the police in Spokane were out of control. Not one officer has ever been charged in Mr. Zehm’s death. Karl Thompson was only charged with lying to the feds.

And when Karl Thompson was sentenced, many officers stood and saluted him. So far as I know, not one of them has ever received a reprimand for this conduct. I believe that having a committee to usurp the authority of the ombudsman is a huge mistake. And if three of the members of the committee are appointed by the police department, we might as well just admit that nothing has changed, or will changed.

Last week I called Mayor Condon’s office to say that I am opposed to his plan. The young man with whom I spoke basically said that I am not smart enough to understand the legal issues and the Mayor is right and I should go along with the plan. I DO understand the legal issues and I want meaningful oversight of the Spokane Police Department.

Please vote NO on Mayor Condon’s proposal.

Thank you.

Cheryl Mitchell

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