As the Inlander and the Spokesman Review are reporting, the Spokane City Council is preparing to rush through an ordinance that would strip the Spokane Office of Police Ombudsman of the hard-won authority the office needs to do its work for the public. PJALS members like you, along with members of more than a dozen other community groups, worked hard and long to win the 2010 ordinance mandating investigatory authority and public reporting of the Ombudsman.

Make no mistake: if the repeal of the 2010 ordinance occurs, it will be a crippling setback to years of hard work to bring credible, independent police oversight to Spokane.

Can we count on you now to do three things to prevent this setback? Now is the time to act!

First, tell the Mayor and council members NOT to repeal the Ombudsman ordinance. Tell them to instruct the city attorney to appeal the arbitrator’s bogus and illegitimate ruling. Defend it, don’t dismantle it!

Send a strong message to Mayor Verner, at [email protected] or 325-3250, and City Council Members by phone at 625-6255 or by email at these addresses: [email protected], [email protected], [email protected], [email protected], [email protected], [email protected],
[email protected].

You’re welcome to use our sample message:

Dear City Council Members,
I am writing to urge you not to repeal the 2010 police accountability ordinance but rather to give due diligence in defending it by appealing the arbitrator’s illegitimate ruling. As you know, the arbitrator himself wrote that his hearing was not the place to resolve the issue.

You saw and heard members of our community come forward last summer to share painful personal stories and testify to the need for change. Our community’s trust in our police department is ruptured. You voted for this ordinance because you saw the need to move forward, and I want to count on you and other city leaders not to take us backward now. There’s simply no point in putting public dollars into funding a police ombudsman if the ombudsman cannot independently investigate complaints and issue public reports about the conclusions of the investigation. This ordinance needs to be defended, not dismantled.

Second, mark your calendar now to attend the City Council meeting Monday August 22, starting at 6:00pm in City Hall—come make visible your support for appealing the arbitrator’s ruling! You can choose to testify for 3 minutes or just choose to be present. Either way, you will make a difference!

Third, share this info with your friends and urge them to take action too!

And here’s more background:
The public is being told that the City has no choice but to repeal the ordinance following an arbitrator’s decision on July 11th, but that’s not true.

As the Center for Justice has reported, the arbitrator pointed out in his own ruling that a state commission should have resolved the issue, not him. And, on that issue, we agree with the arbitrator. The City has the option of appealing the arbitrator’s opinion, but Council President Joe Shogan is leading the city, instead, to forego an appeal and rescind the 2010 ordinance.

This makes no sense.

At the heart of the dispute is whether the City of Spokane was bound by state employment law to gain the consent of the Spokane Police Guild before giving the Ombudsman’s office the power to independently investigate and issue public reports about its findings. We believe two things are true here:

1) There’s simply no point in putting public dollars into funding a police ombudsman if the ombudsman cannot independently investigate complaints and issue public reports about the conclusions of the investigation. That’s the whole purpose of an Ombudsman.

2) Giving the Ombudsman the power to do his job does not violate state labor law. As a state commission reaffirmed in 2009, cities are within their rights to audit police performance however they’d like, so long as that oversight does not inject itself into the realm of officer discipline. The 2010 ordinance explicitly states that the Spokane Ombudsman shall play no role in officer discipline.

Instead of working to challenge the arbitrator’s ruling, some city officials are in a rush to repeal the ordinance and thereby remove any semblance of independence from the Ombudsman’s office. To witness the barely concealed contempt some council members have for the public’s voice and the Center for Justice, click on this link. Then click on the August 1, 2011 City Council meeting selection and after the video loads, scroll to 40 minutes and 20 seconds in.

Now, Spokane’s city attorney has told VOICES, PJALS, & Center for Justice to take a “more passive approach” in our fight for police ombudsman powers: In an August 1st letter to the Center for Justice from City Attorney Howard Delaney, the City Attorney chides us for going public with our efforts to persuade the council of the need to appeal the arbitrator’s opinion: “Although this particular tact [silence] may be counterintuitive to your constituency, please at least consider the potential validity of the more passive approach for at least thirty days or so.”

That’s right, we’re being asked not to speak out on this issue for the next month. In the meantime, members of the council are preparing to bring a measure to repeal the 2010 Ombudsman ordinance on August 22nd.

We’re not going to be silent. If we and other groups had been silent, Spokane would not even have a police Ombudsman. The 2010 ordinance needs to be defended, not dismantled. And we need your help, now more than ever, to make sure the Mayor and the City Council represent and defend the public interest. Please send your message to the Mayor and City Council today, and ask your friends to do the same!

What do we need? Shout it out: Police oversight with CLOUT!