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Power Grab? 

Spokane City Council considers changes to police oversight; plus, a Bloomsday miracle.

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TWEAKING THE OMBUDSMAN

Starting next week, the Spokane City Council will weigh in on the continuing saga of whether the city’s first civilian watchdog over police conduct — Ombudsman Tim Burns — gets to investigate complaints on his own.

A proposed ordinance that would give the ombudsman more independence will be introduced with a first reading Monday and is likely to be up for discussion by the May 17 meeting.

The issue is whether any change to the current ombudsman ordinance will be considered a change in police working conditions — which, by state labor law, can only be approved through collective bargaining.

Council members Jon Snyder, Richard Rush and Amber Waldref have been working intently for several weeks to tweak the ombudsman powers in a way that doesn’t require bargaining, Rush and Waldref say. (Councilman Bob Apple placed the proposed ordinance changes on the agenda.)

The “changes” actually reflect powers the ombudsman already has, says Rush.

“If my understanding is correct, the ombudsman already has the authority to go out and ask people any questions he wants. However, he is not required to,” the councilman says. The tweaks would “almost compel” the ombudsman to use these powers, Rush says.

“We have a tough hurdle to jump over, [but] we have been working hard to create something that’s a win-win for police and citizens and accountability,” Waldref says.

THE QUICK AND THE DEAD

Among the emergency medical responses at Sunday’s Bloomsday race was a 51-year-old Nine Mile Falls man who collapsed at the finish line suffering cardiac arrest.

“He was clinically dead at the finish line,” says Spokane Fire Department Assistant Chief Brian Schaeffer, who was at the scene. “He was asystolic — there was no electrical activity, no pulse, no breathing.”

Given quick response from paramedics, however, “by the time we hit the hospital doors he had a pulse, he had blood pressure and he was trying to breathe on his own,” Schaeffer says.

The man, who is expected to fully recover, Schaeffer was told Tuesday, is still unconscious in intensive care Tuesday.

Resuscitating a Bloomsday runner at the doorstep of death has happened at the last four races, Schaeffer says, with the help of Ped-Med teams — paramedics on bicycles loaded with cardiac gear who are able to navigate the hordes of runners in a way an ambulance cannot.

“Last year the paramedics caught a cardiac arrest that happened right in front of them at Broadway and Monroe. That guy was able to walk Bloomsday (this year) and some of the guys say they were able to stop and talk with him,” Schaeffer says.

HONOR GUARD

Mike Ehredt, an Army veteran who was the subject of an April 21 Inlander story about his goal to run 4,500 miles coast-to-coast, planting a flag every mile to honor a soldier killed in Iraq, began his journey Saturday.

In the company of other veterans and members of Gold Star families who lost children in Iraq, Ehredt dipped a foot in the Pacific Ocean near Astoria, Ore., and began running. A mile in, he planted a flag for Spc. William Justin McClellan. Then a second flag for Pfc. Raymond Pacleb, a 31-year-old from Honolulu.

After Pacleb came a flag for Spc. Robert Rieckhoff, of Kenosha, Wis.; Richard Jordan, a staff sergeant from Tyler, Texas; Pfc. Erin McLyman, of Federal Way, Wash., the most-recent woman killed in Iraq.

And just like that, stopping briefly every mile to poke another small American flag into the ground and offer a brief salute to all the private stories and all the lives cut short, Ehredt’s somber run was underway.

Ehredt reaches the Spokane/Coeur d’Alene area May 14. Follow his progress at www.projectamericarun.com

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