May 24, 2010
Mary Verner, Mayor
City Council Members
City of Spokane
808 W. Spokane Falls Blvd.
Spokane, WA 99201
Re: Councilperson Apples’ proposed ordinance to revise the SPD Police Ombudsman’s authority (C34593)
Mayor Verner and City Council Members:
As a former two-term president of a 350-member police union I would normally be opposed to the expansion of the authority of the Police Ombudsman (OBO). I do support Mr. Apple’s proposed ordinance as an interim step to regain the trust of Spokane citizens in the Spokane Police Department. My former department went through a similar experience after a tragic office involved shooting that resulted in a federal criminal civil rights investigation. The US Attorney’s Office after a lengthy investigation found that there was insufficient evidence to warrant a criminal complaint. A police review commission was created to monitor the activities of my former department.
I believe the Spokane Police Guild does have some valid issues with Chief. These are procedural related issues involving discipline of officers that the Guild is alleging Chief Kirkpatrick has not followed not followed established law and practice. The Guild has not taken issue with the actual discipline Chief Kirkpatrick has given in the recent high profile cases. The Guild’s issues however were lost in the Spokesman-Review’s spin on the Guild’s vote of no confidence. The Guild, I admit, did itself no favors in the manner the vote was taken.
I’ve met Tim Burns, the Spokane PD’s Ombudsman, several times now. I invited Mr. Burns to speak to my Controversial Issues in Law Enforcement and Community Oriented Policing criminal justice classes. In a normal political environment Mr. Burns, is fully capable of monitoring police Internal Affairs investigations. Spokane though does not have a normal political/government environment. The Catch-22 of the current OBO ordinance is that the Ombudsman is dependent upon the Internal Affairs Unit, the Police Command Staff, the Chief, and the Mayor to carry out the OBO’s duties. Mr. Burns if he remains to true to his duties/responsibilities to the people, is well qualified to determine if an IA investigation of a critical incident and/or a complaint is a sham or cover up.
The OBO ordinance however provides no formal authority and or direction for Mr. Burns when a complaint is lodged against the Command Staff, the Chief, the Mayor and or in essence the City Council for failure to act as have former Sheriff Bamonte and I have recently alleged. Sheriff Bamonte’s complaint involves Chief Kirkpatrick’s refusal to take an initial police report on Sheriff Bamonte’s criminal complaint regarding preferential property tax appraisals by the County’s Assessor’s Office. Chief Kirkpatrick simply returned Bamonte’s complaint to “return sender.” Whether this complaint has merit or not, Chief Kirkpatrick’s action was unprofessional and potentially illegal. My complaint involves Spokane PD’s refusal to do the complete and thorough criminal investigation that was necessary into the death of Jo Ellen Savage in the RPS Parking Garage after repeated letters and warnings by both Sheriff Bamonte and me. See my report for the grounds to bring a federal civil RICO prosecution (Link here and Table of Evidence).
As we’ve have just seen with the federal criminal investigation into the Otto Zehm death, police testimony/reports and statements to the media have change over time in the face testifying under oath before a federal grand jury. This also extends to high-ranking members of the Police Command Staff in particular Asst. Chief Nicks who Mr. Burns directly reports to. What is Mr. Burns to do in these circumstances to carry out his mandate to the people? To regain the trust of the public in Spokane PD, must have the confidence in the Police Command Staff to carry out its duties to ensure police policy, procedure, practice, and training are changed after a critical incident like Zehm case if necessary to prevent repeat occurrences. With the City’s dragging in of its feet in the Zehm case, the public has no assurances that such review occurred and necessary changes were implemented if deemed prudent.
Mr. Burns must also seek legal counsel from the City Attorney’s Office. With Mr. Treppiedi’s actions in the Zehm case that the US Attorney’s Office was outraged by as outlined in their recent motion, it is clear the City Attorney’s Office is not acting in the best interests of the citizens of Spokane. Mr. Burns should have the discretion of seeking outside legal counsel when he feels it is appropriate particularly when it involves issues of malfeasance of the Police Command Staff.
Det. Ron Wright (Retired)
Riverside PD, CA
Thirty-five year law enforcement professional
Economic crimes detective as well as other complex investigative assignments
Past two-term president of the Riverside Police Officers’ Assn.
Professional Vitae with significant case histories of complex criminal cases worked