Spokane Still Waiting For Police to Agree to Independent Oversight Overwhelmingly Approved by Voters in February

Game over for democracy?


not the empire state building

It's going to take Spokane, Washington at least a year to put into effect the independent oversight of the police department voters approved by a more than two to one margin last February. The city council voted to postpone until next February consideration of a new labor agreement between the town and the police. The oversight required by the voter-approved ordinance has to be implemented via the police union contract because labor regulations consider matters like oversight workplace issues subject to bargaining. The police, so far, have not agreed to terms supporters of oversight consider sufficient, while the mayor, along with the police chief, have been pushing to leave the disciplinary portion of independent oversight in their (by definition non-independent) hands.

Via the Spokesman-Review:

Under the latest plan, ombudsman would participate in internal investigations and subsequently report findings to an unpaid citizen board appointed by the mayor and Spokane City Council. If the board finds the internal investigation was insufficient, the board can call for additional investigation or the introduction of a third party to conduct a separate investigation.

In November, the council rejected the proposed police contract because it did not allow for enough independence by the ombudsman.

[Police chief Frank] Straub warned that rejecting the proposed contract would send negotiations to a state arbitrator, who could order larger salary increases than the 2 percent annual increases called for in the proposed agreement.

Collective bargaining privileges shouldn't be a suicide pact for cities, and certainly shouldn't trump the "democratic process."