Police Reform Coalition and City Council Say Mayor Needs to Re-negotiate Contract

By Paige Browning

Advocates for civilian oversight of city police have all but given the Mayor of Spokane an ultimatum. They want the Mayor to reopen contract negotiations with the police guild.
 
Wednesday a community coalition known as SPARC requested that Mayor David Condon reopen negotiations on the police labor contract, known as the TA. January 2nd the majority of the Spokane city council wrote Condon a similar letter, saying they will not support the current TA.
 
SPARC, the Spokane Police Accountability Reform Coalition says it is imperative the contract include language that squarely acknowledges independent investigative authority for the police ombudsman. Similar verbiage was approved by voters last February.
 
Julie Schaffer: “The city has no choice but to return to the bargaining table and secure an agreement than allows the ombudsman to conduct independent investigations of all complaints filed with the office, and to issue reports with findings of his or her investigation.”
 
Julie Schaffer from the Center for Justice says in addition to the TA, the city must adopt an ordinance to specify how the ombudsman will exercise its powers. SPARC also gives three specific wording changes for the Tentative Agreement.
 
I spoke with Mayor Condon over the phone about his response to the requests.
 
Condon: “We are, have been in consistent conversations with the mediator.
PB: "At this point how likely it is that you’ll go back to negotiations with the guild which is what both these letters are now requesting?"
Condon: "Well I guess, you know the issue is looking at these and working with the mediator, and also working with the guild and their attorney, and saying is this something that you are willing to take back to your membership with a vote.”
 
Schaffer says the Center for Justice is exploring legal options it could take against the city if the TA is not changed. SPARC is made up by the Center for Justice, League of Women Voters, Peace and Justice Action League, Tim Connor, Attorney Breean Beggs, and others.
 
One other person spoke out against the current TA: attorney and well-known Democrat Tom Keefe, who endorsed Condon for mayor.
 
Keefe: “Proposition number ne was not an advisory ballot, and was not a straw poll. Proposition number one was a clear and unequivocal decision by the citizens of Spokane to amend the city charter to provide real and meaningful civilian oversight to allegations of police misconduct.”
 
If there is not consensus on a TA, the mediator has the power to forward it to a state arbitrator, which Condon says would risk some of the successes already made in police oversight.
 
Copyright 2014 Spokane Public Radio
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