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Two reasons to feel hopeful in Spokane
Hope is precious, and when I find it I try to pay attention to it and share it. So I want to tell you about 2 experiences I had just last week that lifted my spirits, buoyed my energy, and gave me concrete reason for hope.
Last Tuesday, Shar and I met this year’s Young Activist Leaders–and they are wonderful! They talked about their shared values: equality, education for all, civil rights and liberties, an attainable American dream, world peace, equitable distribution of wealth! And they discussed what they want to make happen to advance those values: prioritize, begin huge things with strategy and confidence, get other people on board and engaged to participate, and map power, resources, allies, and decision-makers. These dedicated, passionate leaders of our own community are not kidding around about their values or their plans, and knowing them makes me feel hopeful about what’s happening in Spokane and what will happen in the future! Even better, I really love knowing we can support them to sharpen their skills and hone their leadership for social justice!.
Then on Wednesday last week, I got to facilitate a powerful community gathering on Race, Militarization, Body Cameras, and Police Accountability with speakers Blaine Stum from the Spokane Human Rights Commission, Julie Schaffer from the Center for Justice, and Justin Pimsanguan from Don’t Shoot. The room was packed with members of our groups and others, including three members of our new Police Ombudsman Commission. Excellent points and questions were raised by this engaged, smart bunch of our neighbors and friends. The fact that so many people came together in our community to learn and to share their own questions and ideas left me energized and hopeful.
Neither of these experiences would have happened without people like you supporting PJALS and our sister organizations. There are plenty of reasons we can feel down or angry, and justifiably so. But when there are concrete reasons to feel a sense of hope, community, and possibility — let’s share those examples and move forward with greater energy!
Thank you very much for everything you do in our community and in our world!
Center for Justice, others voice new concerns with SPD body cam policy
Originally published by the Inlander (http://www.inlander.com/Bloglander/archives/2014/07/16/center-for-justice-others-voice-new-concerns-with-spd-body-cam-policy)
Posted By Jacob Jones on Wed, Jul 16, 2014 at 5:16 PM
Police accountability advocates today voiced several new concerns about the Spokane Police Department’s proposed usage policy for officer-worn body cameras, taking issue with vague recording requirements and a perceived lack of public input.
The Center for Justice issued a letter dated July 16, also signed by the Peace and Justice Action League of Spokane and other local groups, saying advocates found the latest draft policy insufficient to ensure body cameras would provide reliable oversight.
“Unfortunately,” the letter states, “the current version of the policy supports a purpose mostly of discretionary surveillance, not of transparency and accountability.”
Advocates expressed the most concern with the rules defining what and when an officer must record. The proposed policy says “most” police encounters “shall” be recorded, but a section specifically listing many common, required interactions was removed. Read more >>
Dom Felix: “Impossible to Leave”
I have truly enjoyed my time as a PJALS Intern. I cannot imagine having done my practicum anywhere else. When other students in my cohort share their experience at their practicum sites I am surprised by stories where students feel as though their work doesn’t matter. I hear about endless intakes, “Name and date of birth please.” I have never felt like my work at PJALS didn’t matter. Often I felt like I was not the most qualified person for the job, but by working on campaigns that really matter to me I think I was able to be effective.
When I started in the fall the Spokane Police Accountability and Reform Coalition was working feverishly to empower the Office of Police Ombudsman. Sadly a new contract was approved that left Proposition 1 voters wanting more. On a more positive note Spokane has a much better Internal Affairs process in place now. Body cameras that should make excessive force complaints easier to verify have been approved. Some goals were not met, but the system is better now than it was before. I learned that changing policy requires a long attention span. Read more »
Wanted: people who care about police accountability!
by Dom Felix
A huge opportunity to improve police accountability in Spokane is available. The City is taking applications for the Office of Police Ombudsman Commission. This commission is responsible for appointing, reappointing or potentially removing the Ombudsman, helping the OPO in communicating with Spokane’s diverse communities, preparing and presenting annual reports, and much more. The deadline to apply is June 6th. We need people that care about police accountability to fill these positions. We need people like you.
Application downloadable (pdf) here.
Moving Forward With a New Police Contract in Spokane
by Dom Felix
One year after voters passed amended the City Charter to mandate independent investigation authority by the Office of Police Ombudsman (OPO), City Council approved a contract between the city of Spokane and the Police Guild, along with an accompanying ordinance, that severely limits when or even if the Ombudsman will have that power. Read more »
Chapter Closed – For Now
Originally published by the Inlander (http://www.inlander.com/spokane/chapter-closed-andmdash-for-now/Content?oid=2266227)
by Heidi Groover
Even as some took the tone of a chapter closing, others left the council chambers thinking only of the work left to be done.
“I think we’re on the edge,” said local civil rights attorney Breean Beggs following an emotional city council meeting.
At its meeting Monday, the Spokane City Council approved a new contract agreement with the Spokane Police Guild, which raises officer pay 2 percent per year from 2012 to 2015, expands retirement benefits in 2016 and outlines some new roles for the Office of Police Ombudsman. After a unanimous rejection of the previous version of this agreement in November, Monday’s lone “no” vote was Councilman Mike Fagan, who called the agreement “too rich.” The agreement must still be approved by guild members.
The newest contract establishes a citizen commission to oversee the ombudsman, and allows that commission to order the ombudsman to do his own investigation if the ombudsman believes IA has not sufficiently investigated. (Ombudsman investigations must come after department decisions about officer discipline have been made.) The new agreement also allows the ombudsman to do preliminary investigations for the purpose of determining whether a complaint should go to IA and to publish closing reports about cases in which he is involved, as long as the reports do not include officers’ names.
City Council approves new Spokane police contract, oversight law
Originally published by The Spokesman-Review (http://www.spokesman.com/stories/2014/feb/11/city-council-approves-new-spokane-police-contract/)
by Jonathan Brunt
Three more months of public debate, news conferences and negotiations have led to the Spokane City Council’s approval of a new police oversight law and union contract.
After unanimously rejecting a proposed Spokane Police Guild contract in November, the council approved a five-year labor contract Monday in a 6-1 vote. It also unanimously approved a law governing police officer oversight.
Council members said the deal and new law significantly improve citizen oversight of the Police Department, a dominating issue of city government at least since the 2006 death of Otto Zehm.
“If it’s not a perfect document, it’s damn close,” said City Councilman Steve Salvatori, who was one of the council members who led the charge last year to insert independent oversight into the City Charter.
City announces new police contract agreement
Originally published by the Inlander (http://www.inlander.com/Bloglander/archives/2014/02/04/city-announces-new-police-contract-agreement)
by Heidi Groover
City and Spokane Police Guild negotiators have reached a new tentative contract agreement they hope will satisfy the city council, which rejected an earlier agreement and has repeatedly called for more authority for the police ombudsman.
The new agreement maintains the current structure in which the ombudsman sits in on Internal Affairs investigations, but adds several new roles:
Where he previously forwarded all complaints of excessive force or “improper/inappropriate interaction with an officer” to IA, the ombudsman would now conduct a preliminary investigation to determine whether to forward the complaint to IA. (Unless an officer is the one filing a complaint, the ombudsman cannot interview officers at this step.)
Town hall meeting on police oversight tonight
Originally published by Inlander (http://www.inlander.com/Bloglander/archives/2013/12/12/town-hall-meeting-on-police-oversight-tonight)
by Heidi Groover
There was a moment last month when things seemed to be falling apart for Mayor David Condon.
The city council had, in a rushed emergency vote, unanimously rejected a contract agreement the mayor had spent 21 months hashing out with the Spokane Police Guild. Council members said it didn’t do enough to strengthen the city’s police ombudsman, whose power has been under scrutiny since the office was created in the aftermath of the death of Otto Zehm, an unarmed mentally ill man who died after a confrontation with Spokane police, landing an officer in federal prison.
Today, the ombudsman monitors misconduct investigations as an observer within the Internal Affairs process; many have called on the city to grant him the authority to investigate on his own outside of that process.
Tell Mayor Condon: independent investigations & nothing less!
Carl Maxey, attorney and civil rights worker, said in 1975:
“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. Read more »
Police Accountability: Council rejects TA
By Dom Felix, Intern
The struggle for independent oversight of police continues. After 21 months of negotiations between the Mayor and the Police Guild, the voters are not any closer to it than they were after passing Proposition 1 way back in February 2013.
On November 1st, City Legal and The Police Guild released a Tentative Agreement (TA) that they and Mayor Condon claimed fulfilled Proposition 1. Read more »
Your Snowflakes created a Blizzard for Accountability
Our snowflakes created a facebook blizzard that could not be ignored! Thank you to the more than 40 individuals who helped spread the message: Mayor Condon failed the voters; Council: Reject the new police contract; Police Accountability for Spokane NOW! Click here for the collage all the “snowflakes”!
We helped to call out Mayor Condon on his complete failure to listen to the voters who overwhelmingly passed Prop. 1 and put pressure on the Council to unanimously reject the police contract.
There is still a lot of work ahead for us to achieve independent oversight for the Office of Police Ombudsman but for now let us bask in our victory!
Welcome new intern Dom Felix!
Dom Felix joined PJALS this year as part of an internship through Eastern Washington University’s Social Work program. Dom has been a long-time resident of the Spokane area who recently chose to pursue higher education in hopes of becoming a chemical dependency counselor. Now as a senior in the program, Dom has come to the decision that working on systemic social change would be a more constructive use of his social work career. This realization lead to Dom choosing PJALS as an internship placement when he became aware of the organization during a lobby day trip to Olympia last year. Read more »
Bobby Kirl joins our team in January!
Bobby Kirl is a Master’s level social work student at Eastern Washington University and has chosen to spend his practicum hours with us. Bobby was first introduced to the work of PJALS during a university course on human rights and was later able to become involved when his affiliation with the local Vets for Peace chapter led to an opportunity to play music at our PJALS membership meeting. Read more »
Bullets and Bookbags
Originally published by the Inlander (http://www.inlander.com/spokane/bullets-and-bookbags/Content?oid=2219029)
by Daniel Walters
The production assistant from ABC’s 20/20 team thought he’d found a story in Coeur d’Alene. Supposedly, school district teachers there had begun carrying concealed handguns to protect against school shooters.
It was only when he called the district that he learned he’d been duped. The story was completely made up — his source turned out to be a satirical online newspaper similar to The Onion. But the truth wasn’t so far off. After the massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary last December, two different camps demanded solutions. Gun control advocates said it was finally time for new legislation to rein in the availability and power of assault weapons. The NRA called for schools to add more armed personnel, reasoning that only a “good guy with a gun” could stop a “bad guy with a gun.”
As gun control attempts fizzled nationwide, many schools have pursued the NRA’s option. The Coeur d’Alene school district added additional police officers in the schools and spent $3,390 to install six gun safes in school offices, giving officers powerful rifles that can shoot accurately down long hallways. Spokane Public Schools plans to arm its security officers for the first time. And in Sandpoint, a school board member’s proposal to use armed volunteers — or even gun-toting teachers — has triggered contentious school board meetings and a recall campaign..
More from this week’s ombudsman vote
Originally published by the Inlander (http://www.inlander.com/Bloglander/archives/2013/10/12/more-from-this-weeks-ombudsman-vote)
by Heidi Groover
In this week’s issue, we have a story on the lengthy, and increasingly bizarre, struggle to empower Spokane’s Office of Police Ombudsman. Police accountability advocates have long pushed for independent investigative powers for the office, but the city’s contract with the Spokane Police Guild hasn’t allowed such powers, and negotiations over the last 21 months to establish the next contract have been completely confidential.
That has left advocates and city council members, who say they also favor stronger police ov ersight, in an awkward and frustrating position. Councilman Steve Salvatori initially planned to take matters into his own hands, sponsoring an ordinance to empower the ombudsman despite ongoing negotiations. (Earlier this year, the council passed the same thing as a resolution, urging the administration to bargain for such powers in a new agreement.) Then, the city announced last week it has reached a tentative agreement with the guild (which remains confidential until a guild vote) and council members backed away from Salvatori’s effort, saying Spokane Police Chief Frank Straub urged them to hold off. The vote Monday put off most of the significant changes to the ombudsman office, with frustrations further elevated by claims from the Center for Justice that they’ve seen the tentative agreement and it does not include independent investigative powers for the ombudsman. The whole thing brought a somber tone to council chambers and plenty of public testimony.
The Race Card
Originally published by the Inlander (http://www.inlander.com/spokane/the-race-card/Content?oid=2195467)
by Jacob Jones
In a new program to track police interactions and deter racial profiling, Spokane Police officers will start packing statistic forms while out patrolling their beats next year. Every time an officer questions a citizen or makes a traffic stop, the officer will have to fill out a short data form, noting the person’s race, location and other details.
With just a handful of questions, each individual form offers minimal insight, but combined with thousands of other data records on contacts across the city, the Spokane Police Department hopes to compile an unprecedented look into how its officers interact with citizens on a daily basis.
Cmdr. Brad Arleth, who has overseen the development of the program, says many metro-sized law enforcement agencies have logged similar race data for years. Amid ongoing national debate over the role of race in “stop and frisk,” gang enforcement and other targeted policing strategies, tracking who Spokane officers engage on the street can provide telling clues about how race may factor into local policing decisions.
Spokane City Council pares down police oversight ordinance
Originally published by The Spokesman-Review (http://www.spokesman.com/stories/2013/oct/08/spokane-city-council-pares-down-police-oversight/)
by Mike Prager
Spokane City Council members voted unanimously Monday to create a new citizen Police Ombudsman Commission to oversee future investigations of officer misconduct and police performance.
Council members backed away from a proposal to empower the existing police ombudsman to conduct independent investigations.
An announcement last week that the mayor’s office has reached a tentative labor agreement with the Spokane Police Guild caused council members to back away from stronger ombudsman language – at least for the time being.
Protest guns in schools
Originally published by The Spokesman-Review (http://www.spokesman.com/stories/2013/oct/05/protest-guns-in-schools/)
by Louise Chadez
Armed employees will be in our schools beginning January 2014. That’s when Spokane Public Schools will become one of only two districts in the state to take this drastic measure to combat potential violence. Ironic, isn’t it, that 13 peace officers will trade their diplomacy for tools of destruction.
Where is the outrage at the continued increase in the militarization of our society? I believe there are many alternatives to arming employees and hope that most in Spokane agree with me.
If you do, please join the Peace and Justice Action League of Spokane and other concerned citizens in protest of this madness. We will be voicing our concerns at the Spokane Public Schools board meeting on Oct. 9 at 7 p.m.
Center for Justice: new contract does not include investigative powers for ombudsman
Originally published by the Inlander (http://www.inlander.com/Bloglander/archives/2013/10/04/center-for-justice-says-new-police-contract-does-not-include-independent-investigative-powers-for-ombudsman)
by Heidi Groover
Earlier today, we reported that the Spokane Police Guild and city administration have reached a tentative agreement about a new police contract, but few details about its content were available.
Now, local police accountability advocates say they’ve seen the section of the agreement that outlines police oversight and they’re not satisfied.
Center for Justice Executive Director Rick Eichstaedt and Communications Director Tim Connor say City Councilman Steve Salvatori showed them the portion of the contract regarding the Office of Police Ombudsman and that it does not include long-desired independent investigative powers for the office.
That, the group says, flies in the face of voter-approved Proposition 1, calling for a stronger ombudsman, and the Use of Force Commission’s recommendations.
Police Oversight: Out of Excuses
Police Oversight: Out of Excuses
People like you–making your voices heard–have made the difference at every step as we’ve worked with great determination to win real, meaningful independent oversight of police for Spokane.
As we know, change worth working for doesn’t come quick or easy!
It’s time now for us to mobilize again–can we count on you? Read more »
‘Out of Excuses’
Originally published by the Inlander (http://www.inlander.com/spokane/out-of-excuses/Content?oid=2189850)
by Heidi Groover
From behind the wheel of a rental car on the edge of Chicago, Spokane City Councilman Steve Salvatori sounds tired. He’s on vacation, but his mind is at City Hall.
“I’m worn out. I’m ready to go,” Salvatori says in his signature no-nonsense tone. “The bananas are turning brown.”
Salvatori says he’s “out of excuses” for citizens who ask why Proposition 1, a measure passed overwhelmingly in February to give the Office of Police Ombudsman expanded powers, hasn’t yet resulted in actual changes. The city says such changes — among them, independent investigative powers and a commission to choose future ombudsmen — will be included in a new contract with the Spokane Police Guild, but the two sides haven’t reached one in 20 months of negotiations. As it stands, the ombudsman can sit in on the department’s Internal Affairs investigations, but can’t launch his own. The proposition outlined expanded powers and mandated that future police contracts allow for them.
Now Salvatori plans to bring forward an ordinance implementing the powers outlined in Proposition 1, despite arguments that such changes have to happen through negotiations. (He’ll present it to a council committee Monday and for a vote by the end of the month.)
Politically, it seems an easy move: Proposition 1 passed with 70 percent of the vote in a city where the public, the police chief and the mayor say they favor more oversight. But a similar move a few years ago ended in an unfair labor practices complaint and a state decision that sided with the guild. For Salvatori, the risk is worth it.
The whole history of the progress of human liberty shows that all concessions yet made to her august claims have been born of earnest struggle. … If there is no struggle there is no progress. Those who profess to favor freedom, and yet deprecate agitation, … want crops without plowing up the ground. They want rain without thunder and lightning. They want the ocean without the awful roar of its many waters. …. Power concedes nothing without demand. It never did and it never will.
Council resolution sets accountability standards for next Police Guild contract
On Monday May 20th the Spokane City Council unanimously passed a resolution that lays out their expectations for Mayor Condon’s negotiations with the Spokane Police Guild. This resolution is an important step forward to guide the future implementation of Proposition 1, which passed in February 2013 with a 70% yes vote. Read more »
Our Community of Action Going Forward Together
by Liz Moore, PJALS Director
What I love most about PJALS is being part of a community of people who take action together based on the connections between human rights, economic justice, & peace.
Our Steering Committee asked you, PJALS members, to guide strategic planning for 2013-2014. We learned that you overwhelmingly support organizing to raise revenue & reject cuts as well as to counter the costs of militarism and to demand money for people, not for war. You’re also passionate about alternatives to incarceration & police accountability. You value that we create community together through our events & campaigns. You strongly support our Young Activist Leaders Program & our interns. You love our Action Conference. You want PJALS to continue to strengthen our connections with communities of color & with rural people.
Why prioritize those areas? Read more »
We did it! Yes on Prop 1!
By Michelle Little
After many years and a tremendous amount of effort by groups such as the Spokane Police Accountability and Reform Coalition, along with overwhelming support by local citizens of Spokane, we have taken a huge step in the right direction. By a landslide 70% vote Proposition 1, which mandates independent investigative authority and public reporting by the Spokane Police Ombudsman and creates a citizen oversight commission, has passed. Read more »
Progress NOT Roadblocks: PJALS Special Election Voter Guide
For the 2/12/13 City of Spokane special election – Please urge your friends to VOTE! Ballots will be mailed to registered voters on January 24 & must be returned by Tuesday February 12.
- Yes on Prop 1: Prop 1 will create permanent power for the Office of Police Ombudsman to independently investigate complaints against Spokane police officers and report findings to the public. It also gives the people of Spokane a voice by creating a citizen board to oversee the Ombudsman. Vote Yes to ensure that everyone in our community is treated fairly by law enforcement and to restore confidence and trust in our police department
- No on Prop 2: if passed, would place the power of governing in the hands of a radical minority by requiring a two thirds (5/7) supermajority vote requirement on selective tax measures. This means just 3 council members could block proposals to keep libraries open, support important life saving services such as EMS, and create jobs and attract tourism.
- Yes on Prop 3: which requests a dedicated levy for Library services at a rate of 7 cents per $1,000 of assessed property value. Homeowners with a home valued at $100,000, would pay a meager $7 a year. The levy duration would be four years and allow for the restoration of regular hours at all branches including those in the lowest income neighborhoods.
Police Accountability: Urge City Council to vote YES on Charter Amendment
Monday Dec 17, 6:00 pm, City Council Chambers, 808 W. Spokane Falls Blvd
Please come urge City Council members to vote YES to send this Charter Amendment to voters. This Charter Amendment will give the Office of Police Ombudsman permanent independence and investigatory authority. No future contract with the Police Guild could be passed by the City that would conflict with the charter amendment, and this Charter Amendment could never be weakened by future council votes. It’s time to get it done! Learn more from the Center for Justice here and come show your support on Monday night!
Community Meeting for Police Accountability
Because of pressure and pushing from community members, Spokane has taken some steps forward on police accountability. But clearly we’re not done yet! Please come to this Community Meeting to to share your concerns, learn of new developments and, most importantly, find out what you can do to help! Meet other people and organizations that are involved in the fight and how you can become a part of what they are doing!
Spokane Police Accountability and Reform Coalition COMMUNITY MEETING
Wednesday Nov 14, 6:30 to 8:30pm
East Central Community Center, 500 W. Stone, in the Senior Area Read more »
KYRS Local News Nov 2
Highlights, history and analysis from Thursday’s news conference announcing the submission of a newly proposed Police Ombudsman Ordinance for the City of Spokane by the Center for Justice and the Peace & Justice Action League of Spokane. Includes and interview with Liz Moore, Director of PJALS.
Listen here: http://www.kyrs.org/mp3s/LocalNewsNov2final.mp3
PJALS supports new strong Police Oversight ordinance
Liz Moore, PJALS director, gave this statement at a PJALS and Center for Justice press conference this afternoon, where our organizations released a newly drafted ordinance strengthening independent oversight of the Spokane Police Department, with the support of the League of Women Voters.
The Peace and Justice Action League strongly supports this new strong Police Oversight ordinance because it does 3 completely critical things:
1. gives the Ombudsman investigative authority and mandates public reporting on investigations;
2. removes police unions from the process of selecting the Ombudsman responsible for oversight of the police department; and
3. creates a commission of community members to review and guide the Ombudsman’s work.
Police Accountability: a critical window opening now
Though the Zehm case has been settled, now is not the time for activists with our eyes on police accountability to settle in and get comfortable. The next year and a half is going to be critical. The landscape is shifting quickly as Mayor Condon brings in Frank Straub as new chief of police, among other changes current and on the horizon. Read more »
Tell the Mayor: We need a Police Ombudsman every day!
Public pressure works: The city announced today that Spokane Mayor David Condon will extend the contract of Police Ombudsman Tim Burns until the end of the year. More here!
Tonight, the Spokane City Council will vote on a resolution calling on Mayor Condon to keep Tim Burns in the Police Ombudsman position at least until a plan is in place to fill the position for the next 3-year term and to remove the Police Guild’s influence in the selection process. Will you attend or send a message to make your voice heard?
Condon dismissed Burns, the first Police Ombudsman, without a plan to fill the critical position. Read more »
Community Groups Urge Council and Mayor Not to Repeal 2010 Ombudsman Ordinance
Three Spokane public interest organizations who’ve been deeply involved in pushing Spokane city government toward independent oversight of its police department are calling upon the City Council and Mayor Mary Verner to maintain the independence of Spokane’s Office of Police Ombudsman.
In response to an arbitrator’s July 11, 2011 ruling—ordering the City to rescind its July 2010 ordinance (C-34609)—the City Council is scheduled to vote tonight to comply with the arbitrator’s ruling and repeal the ordinance.
“Just because the City has dug itself into a deep hole doesn’t mean it should give up,” the groups argue in their letter. “To repeal the ordinance will only deepen public frustration and undermine the City’s efforts to secure a collective bargaining agreement with the Guild that removes the union’s opposition to a credibly independent Ombudsman.”
The groups’ letter (attached) is highly critical of the City’s “painfully inept mishandling of the defense of the 2010 ordinance that brings us to this juncture.” Although the groups do not dispute a recent determination by David Gedrose of the state’s Public Employment Relations Commission (PERC) that the City made a mistake and misled PERC when it sought to arbitrate the dispute with the Spokane Police Guild, neither do the groups believe that the City’s errors absolve PERC of its legal duty to review the 2010 ordinance on its merits—something it has not done.
“What’s deeply frustrating about the place the City finds itself in,” says Center for Justice Communications Director Tim Connor, “is that the City so badly botched its defense of the ordinance that PERC never actually reached the heart of the legal issue: Did the City have the legal authority to give the Ombudsman powers of independence or not? We think the law is clear that the 2010 ordinance is legal. But the law also says that only PERC or a state court have the authority to rule on that question. And neither have done so yet.”
The groups’ letter calls on the city council and Mayor Mary Verner to appeal the arbitration ruling while it negotiates a new contract with the Spokane Police Guild.
Originally published by the Inlander (http://www.inlander.com/spokane/on-hold/Content?oid=2195478)
by Heidi Groover
As citizens streamed forward to the microphone Monday, Councilman Steve Salvatori looked out to the audience and down at his hands, long-faced and exasperated.
“Transparency is awkward until your eyes adjust to the light,” Salvatori told the group, carefully choosing his words to explain an ordinance he championed that was now a shell of its former self.
Though Salvatori initially introduced an ordinance that would have granted far-reaching independence to the city’s Office of Police Ombudsman, the version approved Monday simply established a citizen commission to oversee the office, putting on hold provisions like the authority to conduct independent investigations of police actions. After 21 months of police contract negotiations and a ballot measure to add the strengthened ombudsman to the City Charter, the move began as an attempt to bypass or speed up secret guild negotiations. Then, late last week, the city administration announced it had reached a tentative agreement with the guild, but wouldn’t discuss any details publicly until guild members pass the agreement and it goes to the council for consideration. Councilmembers were briefed in executive session last week about the agreement, leaving them in the awkward position of knowing what the contract grants the ombudsman but not being able to discuss it — even as they voted on an ordinance about the ombudsman.