Wednesday, August 15, 2012

The term of ombudsman Burns coming to an end

Posted on Wed, Aug 15, 2012 at 3:18 PM

The city of Spokane will not renew Police Ombudsman Tim Burns's contract, a city spokeswoman confirmed on Wednesday.

Burn's contract ends on Aug. 24, but spokeswoman Marlene Feist says the mayor wants to reconfigure the police ombudsman's job description rather than renew the contract.

"Tim's going to stay on with us at the end of September [or] the beginning of October for a transition plan for a new person to serve in that role," Feist says. "He could potentitally reapply for this position."

Burns was hired in 2009 to act as an oversight for the Spokane Police Department. The City Council granted him independent investigatory powers in 2010, but then stripped him of those powers the following year after an arbitrator ruled that those powers had been granted without consultation from the Spokane Police Guild.

Burns is on a three-year contract with an option for one renewal, Feist says. In a phone call, Burns confirmed that his contract was not being renewed, but wasn't available for further comment.

The city is trying to find a new police chief and awaiting a report from the Use of Force Commission, which spent most of the past year holding hearings on the police's actions. It is also negotiating a contract with the guild.

Feist says the mayor wanted the police ombudsman's job to reflect the commission's recommendations, and he wanted to consult with whoever is the new police chief before refilling the position.

Rick Eichstaedt, executive director of nonprofit the Center for Justice, which advocated for the ombudsman position, says he think Burns did as good of a job as he could.

But he's concerned that the community wasn't consulted on Burns's departure.

"We have an ombudsman ordinance, we need to give people an ombudsman. Who is going to serve in that role?" Eichstaedt says. "It's almost like throwing the baby out with the bathwater when we don’t know when they're going to refill the tub."

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