Spokane police guild contract up for a city council vote next week, receiving mixed reviews

SPOKANE, Wash. — Protesters across the nation, including in Spokane, are calling for police reform. A new contract between the City of Spokane and the Police Guild would answer some of those demands.

The new contract is getting mixed reviews. One organization says there’s less oversight for the police department. Spokane Mayor Nadine Woodward, who was endorsed by the police guild during her campaign, says reform has to come after a deal is reached. A lot of controversy surrounding the contract is over what kind of power the Office of the Police Ombudsman has. The ombudsman investigates a claim if you accuse the police of mistreatment.

“We’re getting ready for a pretty big vote, probably this Monday,” said City Council President Breean Beggs. “There’s some chance that it could be delayed, but not for very long on a long overdue police contract.”

The contract has been in the works for a while. The last contract expired in 2016 and has been under negotiations ever since. According to Woodward, the tentative agreement was approved three weeks ago by her office. However, before police reform can be discussed, she said the contract needs to be approved.

“If people do want some change moving forward, we need to pass this contract and open up that door to the conversation in the next one,” she explained.

The Peace and Justice Action League of Spokane says it’ll actually make officers less accountable by weakening the power of the ombudsman. Woodward said that’s not the case.

“It would allow him to, his assistant to pretty much have the same amount of authority as he exercises right now,” Woodward said.

Additionally, the ombudsman would have access to body camera footage. Beggs said the ombudsman does now, but it wasn’t in the old contract as body cameras weren’t introduced to the Spokane Police Department until 2015.

The ombudsman also wants to independently investigate cases rather than follow an internal investigation. Beggs said this is not in the contract.

Once it comes to a vote, the contract cannot be changed during that time. When city council votes, it’s either a yes or no. If it’s not approved, it goes to an arbitrator. Woodward said it could take years.

“If it goes to arbitration, we don’t get any movement on some of the reforms that our community and some of our electives want,” Woodward said.

On Thursday, the ombudsman will present his closing report and recommendations at the OPOC meeting. You can view his report here.

The contract will cost $6.2 million for the last three-and-a-half years of back pay, which would be paid through a reserve fund. Beggs said the cost will be well over that because of future raises. They’ll have to find out where that money is going to come from. Beggs said he doesn’t see any cuts to programs, but open police officer positions could potentially stay that way to save money.

City council members are expected to vote on the contract on Monday. Click here to view the contract.

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