Monday, June 8, 2015

The Office of Police Ombudsman looks to City Council to appoint an interim

Posted By on Mon, Jun 8, 2015 at 4:44 PM

The Office of Police Ombudsman Commission has had it.

The five-member commission has been asking the Ombudsman Selection Committee to give them three names of interim candidates, as required by the city charter, so they can fill the police ombudsman position that's been vacant since January. The City Council also weighed in a month ago in the form of a resolution that requested a list of names from the Selection Committee pronto. The Selection Committee has mostly ignored those requests.

Last week, in a letter to the City Council, OPO Commission chair (and Inlander contributor) Rachel Dolezal asked the City Council for help. Councilman Jon Snyder responded that he plans to introduce an amendment to the ordinance that would allow the City Council to identify qualified interim candidates if the Selection Committee refuses to do so or can't agree on a qualified candidate. 

"The ombudsman office is almost nonfunctional at this point, and has been for too long," Snyder says. "It's really frustrating for those of us who've worked on this for so long," 

Nancy Isserlis, the chair of the Selection Committee, says all of the their energy is being focused on finding a permanent replacement. So far, Isserlis says, the committee has interviewed eight candidates via Skype and plans to interview five more this week. Then they'll invite five to seven of the most qualified candidates to interview in person. She predicts the committee will send three names for the permanent position to the OPO Commission by the end of this month, at which point the commission will conduct its own interviews. 

As for the reason the Selection Committee won't send a list of interim candidates? Isserlis says none of the individuals who've applied are qualified. 

Although the ultimate authority to determine if a candidate is qualified rests with the Selection Committee, the City Human Resources Department does its own qualification check before passing the applications along. Meghann Steinolfson, a senior HR analyst for the city, says all of the interim applicants met the minimum qualifications.  

Adrian Dominguez, who sits on both the OPO Commission and Selection Committee, doesn't expect the permanent position to be filled before October, making the need for an interim all the more important, he said at the OPO Commission meeting last week. 

Why all this hoopla about hiring an interim? Aside from the fact that there has been no civilian oversight of the police department for six months, the list of three qualified people would act as a safety net of candidates in case the next permanent ombudsman were to unexpectedly leave.

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About The Author

Mitch Ryals

Mitch covers cops, crime and courts for the Inlander. He moved to Spokane in 2015 from his hometown of St. Louis, and is a graduate of the University of Missouri. He likes bikes, beer and baseball. And coffee. He dislikes lemon candy, close-mindedness and liars. And temperatures below 40 degrees.