Council Wants More Police Oversight, Shoots Down Agreement

By Paige Browning

The Spokane City Council has shot down the new police labor contract because it did not include certain agreements on police oversight. Monday all seven members of the council voted against the tentative agreement between the Mayor’s Office and the Police Guild.
 
City Council members had made it clear to the Mayor they would only approve the contract if it gave the police ombudsman authority to conduct investigations on his own. Voters already approved this authority in February, when they passed a proposition on the topic by 70 percent.
 
Council president Ben Stuckart has called on the city administration and police guild to renegotiate the police ombudsman’s investigation powers, in the tentative agreement- or TA.
 
Stuckart says he believes "that as citizens we grant rights to police officers, like the right to carry a gun, the right to use deadly force." He says "we then have the right as citizens to have oversight, that’s independent of them. The way the TA was written, the process just went through internal affairs, and that’s not independent.”
 
Right now, Ombudsman Tim Burns mostly monitors activity in the police department but can’t investigate misconduct on his own.
 
Mayor Condon, the chief of police, and police union representatives agreed on the TA November 1st after months of closed meetings. Mayor Condon argues it does include elements of police oversight.
 
Condon: “We had negotiated an ombudsman commission, so that the ombudsman would report separate from city government, so that they would have that independent oversight. We had negotiated body cameras, which is really going to bring a significant amount of transparency to the police department. The other major component was the ombudsman would be fully involved in every one of our investigations.”
 
The agreement also called for a two-percent salary increase each year from 2012 to 2015. The last agreement expired in 2012.
 
Condon says he recognizes they may need to talk about the ombudsman’s oversight power again. Condon says of the discussions, “We negotiate in good faith of seeing what that oversight is. The guild would have to look at that and see what those components are.”
 
A state mediator would have to make the final decision down the road if all local parties can’t agree on the next agreement.
 
The city had scheduled three public meetings anticipating the approval of the TA, but those are all cancelled.
 
Copyright 2013 Spokane Public Radio
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