Center for Justice releases police accountability suggestions

SPOKANE, Wash. - The Center for Justice wants more police accountability and announced Thursday what that would look like.

Their ideas included an ombudsman that would have more power to investigate the Spokane Police Department.

In 2006 Otto Zehm was in a confrontation with Spokane police officer Karl Thompson at a north Spokane Zip Trip convenience store. He died several days later and last year Thompson was found guilty in federal court of using excessive force. Zehm's case was the jumping off point for this city to discuss how our police department will be monitored.

Police oversight vo

It was agreed in February that more citizen oversight was needed. At the time the Spokane City Council voted unanimously to reform the police department. Nine months later the Center for Justice has its plan and wants to jump start the process in making it a reality a day after what would have been Zehm's 43rd birthday.

"That is why we're here today to talk about one of the major pieces of unfinished business on the path to rebuilding public trust in the Spokane Police Department," Tim Connor with the Center for Justice said.

Connor wants major changes in the Office of the Ombudsman. First, give the ombudsman the ability to independently investigate the police department. Right now, he can only examine the department's own investigations of itself. Second, the center wants the city to form a commission, comprised of one member of each district, to work with the ombudsman.

"This is exactly what I've been talking about," Spokane Mayor David Condon said. "I think the feedback from the Center of Justice is phenomenal."

Condon said this is a great starting point for further discussions but still wants to issue his own proposal for police oversight. Meanwhile, the Use of Force Commission is expected to issue theirs next week.

Despite more discussion needing to take place it seems all major players are on board to making police accountability happen.

"Now I think it's a matter of putting the finishing touches on, getting it in place and then lets get back to the business of doing police work," Spokane Police Chief Frank Straub said.

A major sticking point is the current negotiations going on between the city and the police guild. The Center for Justice wants to see it's independent ombudsman oversight worked into the contract which would help speed up the process. If the guild doesn't it would delay police oversight.