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.