Spokane, WA Voters Approve Independent Review of Police Misconduct, Waiting for Police Union Approval

"Democracy does not go on hold because there is not a contract," says councilmember pushing ordinance to establish independent review


actual training exercise
Spokane PD

In February, by a margin of more than two to one, voters in Spokane, Washington approved a city charter amendment that established an independent ombudsman to review police misconduct. More than a half year later, the city still doesn't have the police oversight it voted for. The hold-up? The police union, whose contract expired in 2011. Union and city officials have reportedly reached a "tentative" agreement, but won't disclose the details. At least one councilmember has proposed an ordinance that would establish what should have been done after the February vote. The city council will take up the ordinance tonight, as the Spokesman-Review reports:

[Steve] Salvatori said adopting the ordinance Monday would not preclude making changes after a contract is approved.

He said the public, through the ballot, has been demanding independent oversight of police.

"Democracy does not go on hold because there is not a contract," he said.

Salvatori characterized the agreement as a "thoughtful product" but said he and other council members are required to keep the terms confidential until the tentative agreement is approved by the Police Guild.

He said he believes the negotiations over the ombudsman's role should have been done publicly with participation by the guild.

The police union would not comment to the paper. The City Council president, meanwhile, wants to postpone tonight's vote until the police contract is made public, while others have raised concerns that cops might vote no on the proposed contract if the city council establishes independent investigative authority for an ombudsman first, begging the question of who exactly is working for who(m).