Law and Oversight

by KEVIN TAYLOR & r & & r & & lt;span class= & quot;dropcap & quot; & T & lt;/span & he civilian who oversees police conduct in Boise -- a past president of the National Association for Civilian Oversight of Law Enforcement who is often held up as a model ombudsman -- will make two appearances in Spokane May 15-16.

Pierce Murphy will speak to the Spokane City Council at 2 pm on May 15. The special council study session, as it's called, is scheduled for the briefing center (the room near the elevators on the lower level of City Hall) and is open to the public.

City Councilman Richard Rush says he is looking forward to discussion about the shape of the ombudsman office here, whether all details must be negotiated with the police union, and what options the council has when writing the ordinance to create the office.

On May 16, Murphy will speak downtown following a Whitworth University student theater production entitled "Crossing the Line: An Investigation of Police, Power and People," which is scheduled to begin at 6:30 pm at CenterStage, 1017 W. First Ave. (Tickets are $15, adults; $10, students, through TicketsWest. Tickets are $5 for a separate reception after the program.)

Ombudsman process delayed: The Spokane Police Guild was unable at its regular meeting last week to advance the process for establishing an ombudsman. Det. Ernie Wutherich, Guild President, says turnout at the April 30 meeting was less than the required 10 percent (or 27 members) for an official quorum, thus no action was taken. Conflict with in-service training, rather than opposition to an ombudsman, affected turnout, he says.

"The training at the academy was during our meeting time and was mandatory attendance," Wutherich says. "If it was people voting with their feet, I would have got a bunch of e-mails saying 'Heck with this ...' And I didn't."

Wutherich will present details of the tentative agreement with the city (reached after nine months of negotiations) to create civilian oversight at the Guild's May 28 meeting, unless he can arrange a special meeting earlier. Guild members then have two weeks before they vote.