Thursday, January 2, 2014

What the Spokane City Council wants in a new police contract

Read Ben Stuckart's letter to the mayor asking him to reopen negotiations with the Spokane Police Guild

Posted By on Thu, Jan 2, 2014 at 12:50 PM

click to enlarge Spokane City Council President Ben Stuckart
Spokane City Council President Ben Stuckart
When the mayor introduced his latest plan to address the controversial issue of police oversight, he handed out to reporters a list of each city council member's wishes for the city's Office of Police Ombudsman. That diverse list, he said, showed how difficult this process was — even the council, vocally critical of his work on this issue, couldn't agree on what the ombudsman should be allowed to do.

Now, Council President Ben Stuckart hopes he's sent a clear message to the administration.

"The TA must be re-opened," Stuckart wrote in a letter to Mayor David Condon (dated today) before explaining just what the council wants in a new TA, or tentative agreement, which will outline the next contract between the city and the Spokane Police Guild. 

The mayor and city legal team handle bargaining with the guild on contract terms, but the council has final approval of the agreement. After concerns it didn't go far enough to empower the ombudsman, the council rejected the agreement reached between the city and the guild in the fall. Then, the administration returned the same agreement to the council alongside a new ordinance for approval. While some council members were happy with the ordinance — which would grant a commission overseeing the ombudsman the authority to request a third party review if the ombudsman is unsatisfied with an internal police department investigation — others said it wasn't enough. They want the mayor to renegotiate the contract agreement and include in it new authorities for the ombudsman, namely, the ability for the ombudsman to open his own investigations, outside of the department's Internal Affairs process.

If that's not possible, Stuckart writes, the contract should be changed to reflect that it does not fully satisfy the city charter, which citizens amended in February to include language calling for a "totally independent" ombudsman. A council vote on the agreement is scheduled for Feb. 3, but Stuckart hopes the mayor will go back to the bargaining table before then.

"We've done other things, like passed a resolution with an ordinance attached and that didn't make it in [the agreement]. The city charter was changed and that didn't make it in," Stuckart tells the Inlander. "After everything we've gone through, I hope this will be clear."

We've reached out to the mayor's spokesman for a response and will update this post when we hear back. UPDATE: City Spokesman Brian Coddington says the administration is still reviewing the letter and has no formal response to the council's requests yet. "We're going to take some time to look at it and review our options," he says. "It's one of those things where there are two sides, [the city and the guild]. It's not as simple as looking at a letter and saying, 'We choose option three or one or two.'"

Read more about this issue here, here and here, and find Stuckart's full letter below.

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About The Author

Heidi Groover

Heidi Groover is a staff writer at the Inlander, where she covers city government and drug policy. On the job, she's spent time with prostitutes, "street kids," marriage equality advocates and the family of a 16-year-old organ donor...