Race and Republicans

July Fourth was a head-spinning weekend.

I watched Hamilton. There is much in the story, the presentation, cast, and the foreign background, upbringing, and education of the man himself that bears on the present day. (See the P.S. for how to watch)

I listened to parts of Trump’s nasty, divisive speech at Mt. Rushmore last Friday fanning the flames of the Republican culture wars of grievance, ignorantly casting the attacks on the statues of Confederates as “lying about our history” –as if those statues were not themselves a lie. (I recommend this 7 minute explanatory youtube video: How Southern socialites rewrote Civil War history. And this tidbit entitled James Longstreet Statues?.) 

On the same day as Trump’s speech, July 3, the Spokesman reported in a tiny article that vandals had defaced the George Floyd mural recently painted by Daniel Lopez on the side of the Shacktown Community Cycle building at 2nd and Howard downtown. (Sadly, the vandals were not caught on video because of a corrupted hard drive.) Racism is alive and well in the inland northwest. Why no more notice than this of a defacement of a modern historic symbol–the mural? 

The Republican Party as it is constituted today, is dependent on racism and our racist past for the minority support that keeps it in power. Recognize here, once again, that the Republican Party of today is not the party of Lincoln. Democrats and Republicans have switched roles since Lincoln. The current Republican Party is dependent on the votes of racists who were gradually cemented to modern Republicanism by the “Southern Strategy.” These are people whose views on slavery would have been anathema to Lincoln. Smooth rhetoric gives non-racist Republicans plausible deniability of the party’s racist vote dependence, but the party strategy is plain: use racism as a wedge; stoke racist fears and harvest the votes. [For local connection, remember that Cecily Wright once was chairwoman of the Spokane County Republicans even as she and her husband, at their Northwest Grassroots gathering, hosted white supremacist Charlottesville marcher, James Allsup, speaking on “label lynching.”] Today’s Republicans stoke racist fears using, among other things, unattributed videos like one sent to me (and “undisclosed recipients”) via email over the weekend by a friend I thought was a moderate Republican. Called the “Nigger Video,” it features a black man talking head who starts by saying “Obama shouldn’t try to ban guns, he should ban niggers,” and follows with pseudo-statistics superimposed on a background of rioting. No documentation, no sources, no timeline, no attribution, a video whose only intent is to inflame.

To quote Kevin Phillips, former Republican strategist, writing in the 1960s:

From now on, the Republicans are never going to get more than 10 to 20 percent of the Negro vote and they don’t need any more than that… but Republicans would be shortsighted if they weakened enforcement of the Voting Rights Act. The more Negroes who register as Democrats in the South, the sooner the Negrophobe whites will quit the Democrats and become Republicans. That’s where the votes are. Without that prodding from the blacks, the whites will backslide into their old comfortable arrangement with the local Democrats.

The Southern Strategy was then weaponized by Lee Atwater for both Reagan and Bush I (remember the “Willie Horton” ads?):

“You start out in 1954 by saying, ‘Nigger, nigger, nigger.’ By 1968 you can’t say ‘nigger’ — that hurts you. Backfires. So you say stuff like forced busing, states’ rights and all that stuff. You’re getting so abstract now [that] you’re talking about cutting taxes, and all these things you’re talking about are totally economic things and a byproduct of them is [that] blacks get hurt worse than whites.

“And subconsciously maybe that is part of it. I’m not saying that. But I’m saying that if it is getting that abstract, and that coded, that we are doing away with the racial problem one way or the other. You follow me — because obviously sitting around saying, ‘We want to cut this,’ is much more abstract than even the busing thing, and a hell of a lot more abstract than ‘Nigger, nigger.”‘
  [also referenced in Wikipedia in the article on Atwater

Those who don’t know history are condemned to repeat it. A lot of U.S. history has been intentionally obscured. I only recently learned of the Tulsa Race Massacre, but until just a few days ago I was unaware of the Wilmington, North Carolina, 1898 insurrection, an event, as this excellent youtube video further explains, was intentionally hidden by local librarians. This is history pertinent to the present day. Unlike my friends video is well referenced. It is there for the searching. Learn it. 

I listened to “Frederick Douglass’ Descendants Read His Famous ‘Fourth Of July’ Speech,” a key 6 minute bit of my Fourth of July weekend and a ringing contrast to Trump’s divisive rhetoric. 

But let me end with a link to the the essay that most affected me over this last weekend: You Want a Confederate Monument? My Body Is a Confederate Monument; The black people I come from were owned and raped by the white people I come from. Who dares to tell me to celebrate them? I am still staggering from that one. [If you cannot read it thanks to a paywall, Reply to this email and I think I can send you a copy.]

Keep to the high ground,

P.S. Hamilton became watchable, streamable, on July 3 on DisneyPlus.com which you can join for a month for about $7 (and then cancel if you don’t want yet another monthly fee nibbling at your credit card). I’m sure the live performance is a different experience, but seeing a live performance is an expensive expedition and, right now, with Covid-19, not even possible. 

Protest and Persistence

On July 3rd, The New York Times reported several polls suggesting that “Black Lives Matter May Be the Largest Movement in U.S. History.” Four reputable polling organizations found that between 6 and 10 percent of population of the U.S. may have participated, that’s between 15 million and 26 million people. People turned out all over the country from May 26th to the end June in response to the video of the appalling behavior of Minneapolis police officers as Officer Derek Chauvin knelt on the neck of George Floyd for nearly 8 minutes, a video recorded and posted by a high school junior still too young to vote. The video ignited worldwide protests, focusing a bright spotlight on the racism and oppression still coursing in the veins of this country one hundred and fifty-five years after the end of the Civil War, racism and oppression perpetuated and molded by textbooks and statues meant to rewrite history–and paper over the still festering wound of racism and slavery. I’m a little ashamed now that In my youth in Wisconsin I lived part of that mythic re-write as a participant in Civil War centennial re-enactments that ignored the slavery over which the Civil War was fought. 

Between six and ten percent of the population participated in Black Lives Matter movement. A review of international protests suggests a “3.5 percent rule,” suggesting that, if 3.5 percent of the population participates, change will ensue (specifically, governments facing that level of protest will fall). Click that link to read the detail, and the caveats. Among the caveats is this important one [the bold is mine]: 

The 3.5% figure is a descriptive statistic based on a sample of historical movements. It is not necessarily a prescriptive one, and no one can see the future. 

There are countervailing racist, anti-inclusive forces at work that wish to quash the intent of the Black Lives Matter movement. None is so clear as the divisive “they’re trying to re-write history” speech Mr. Trump gave last Friday, July 3, at Mt. Rushmore in which he effectively endorsed the Lost Cause narrative, itself a racist re-write of history

So how do we get from the six to ten percent Black Lives Matter movement to real change? We pay persistent attention like we have not paid attention for a long time–and that starts locally.

Last Monday, June 29th, for the very first time, I watched the Spokane City Council meeting from one end to the other online on “Channel 5” (not including the “briefing session” that preceded it). Here’s where the rubber begins to contact the road. I hope the same thing is happening in City Councils all over this country. The main issue on June 29th in Spokane was whether or not to approve a Police Guild (union) contract that continues to subvert a city-initiative-passed ordinance in favor of civilian oversight of the Spokane Police. It was rejected on a seven to zero vote. A striking point made during the meeting was several Council members saying they had never before experienced this level of engagement with their constituents in the days leading up to the meeting. They got the message.

So. Case closed, right? NO. It is not closed, not yet. As I pointed out, rejecting the proposed Police Guild contract is just the beginning, setting a complicated course of arbitration and/or wrangling between the Guild and our Guild-supported Mayor Woodward, a wrangling that level the Council largely out of the picture. This is not a long term solution and we dare not lose track of it.

The fundamental issue here is this: the Guild should NOT be allowed to negotiate their own oversight as part of their contract–and especially not to negotiate with a mayor they helped elect.The City Council cannot fix this–a fact that had escaped me. The fix lies in a change in Washington State law, the RCW (the “Revised Code of Washington“), likely a change in a clause buried in Chapter 41.12 Civil Service for City Police, that would take oversight out of contract negotiations. 

So how do we make that happen? We email our support for such a change to our Washington State legislators, not only Senator Andy Billig and Reps. Marcus Riccelli and Timm Ormsby of Legislative District 3, but also those of Legislative Districts 4 and 6 with which the City of Spokane geographically overlaps

Perhaps more importantly, with elections coming up in November we can work to replace LD4 and LD6 legislators with people like Lori FeaganLance Gurel, and John Roskelley in LD4 and Zack Zappone and Tom McGarry in LD6. Check them out, talk them up with friends and neighbors, and contribute to their campaigns. None of the seated legislators (all right wing Republicans) in LDs 4 and 6 seems to be interested or even to understand the issues. (see P.S. below).

Elections and communication with those elected are where the rubber meets the road on pursuing the positive change encouraged by the Black Lives Matter movement. Don’t let this movement peter out in haze of detail of governmence. Let’s keep at it.

Keep to the high ground,

P.S. For an example of obfuscation by current local Republican state legislators on the Black Lives Matter / Police reform movement listen to Mike Padden’s interview on the KPBX website. He rambles, touching on body cams, the chokehold (which he is against), the “lateral vascular neck restraint,” i.e. compression of the carotids, as opposed to the airway (which he favors), and the appeals process that he things get some police re-instated when they shouldn’t be. He made no mention of the essential issue of the law enforcement unions negotiating their own oversight. Senator Padden (LD4) is  opposed by John Roskelley, former county commissioner. It’s time for a change.

The Values of the 4th of July

I offer this for those who are not already signed up for Letters from an American. Heather Cox Richardson occupies the high ground. Have the best Fourth you can in these trying times.


July 3, 2020

Heather Cox RichardsonJul 4

And on July 4, 1776, the Second Continental Congress adopted the Declaration of Independence, declaring: “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness.”

For all the fact that the congressmen got around the sticky little problem of black and Indian slavery by defining “men” as “white men,” and for all that it never crossed their mind that women might also have rights, the Declaration of Independence was an astonishingly radical document. In a world that had been dominated by a small class of rich men for so long that most people simply accepted that they should be forever tied to their status at birth, a group of upstart legislators on the edge of a wilderness continent declared that no man was born better than any other.

America was founded on the radical idea that all men are created equal.

What the founders declared self-evident was not so clear eighty-seven years later, when southern white men went to war to reshape America into a nation in which African Americans, Indians, Chinese, and Irish were locked into a lower status than whites. In that era, equality had become a “proposition,” rather than “self-evident.” “Four score and seven years ago,” Abraham Lincoln reminded Americans, “our fathers brought forth on this continent, a new nation, conceived in Liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal.” In 1863, Lincoln explained, the Civil War was “testing whether that nation, or any nation so conceived and so dedicated, can long endure.”

It did, of course. The Confederate rebellion failed. The United States endured, and Americans began to expand the idea that all men are created equal to include men of color, and eventually to include women.

But just as in the 1850s, we are now, once again, facing a rebellion against our founding principle, as a few wealthy men seek to reshape America into a nation in which certain people are better than others.

The men who signed the Declaration of Independence on July 4, 1776 pledged their “Lives, [their] Fortunes and [their] sacred Honor” to defend the idea of human equality. Ever since then, Americans have sacrificed their own fortunes, honor, and even their lives, for that principle. Lincoln reminded Civil War Americans of those sacrifices when he urged the people of his era to “take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion—that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain—that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom—and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.”

Words to live by in 2020. 

Happy Independence Day, everyone.

CMR and Voter Suppression

Sometimes things in plain sight are the hardest to see. Voter suppression is a hot topic these days. The spotlight shines on rules and voting procedures in states like Georgia and Wisconsin that surely seem designed to discourage some eligible voters from casting their ballots. Voting is a democratic value (that’s with a small “d”). We in this country claim to be in favor of every citizen being able to cast their ballot. In a sense voting is the most important right of expression our First Amendment should afford us.

Last Friday every Republican U.S. Representative, including our own Cathy McMorris Rodgers, cast a Nay vote, a vote to continue the longest running, most consistent, clearest example of voter suppression in the history of our country. The House of Representative voted 232 Aye-180 Nay, passing H.R. 51: The Washington, D.C. Admission Act, a bill to establish Washington D.C. as the 51st state. Of course, the bill goes to the Senate where it will die–at least until it is taken up again in a new Congress next January.

The current President, the Republican Senate majority, and the Judicial Branch of the federal government represent a minority of the voters over whom they rule. (For a full discussion see Control by the Minority). No Republican wants to dwell on that–and yet it is the argument made by their leader, Mr. Trump, “You mean District of Columbia, a state? Why? So we can have two more Democratic — Democrat senators and five more congressmen? No, thank you. That’ll never happen,” No nod to democratic values. The best Republican argument against granting statehood to D.C. is simple, “We want to maintain our rule by minority.” It is all about power for Republicans, not about citizens being able to vote or to be properly represented. 

Republicans, by voting Nay on H.R. 51, are engaging in the longest act of voter suppression in the history of our country. Representation by voting is an American value. Cathy McMorris Rodgers and her Party just voted to continue the suppression of voters in Washington, D.C. Vote her out. Vote them all out. Hers are not my values.

Keep to the high ground,

P.S. Residents of the District of Columbia have been protesting their lack of a say in the government that  controls them since the District of Columbia was established under Article I, Section 8 of the U.S. Constitution. Their disenfranchisement, like so much else in this country’s founding, has its roots in slavery. The District was established in Maryland, then the northernmost slave state (except for New York State which has a complicated history of struggle and gradual abolition). The location was chosen as a compromise based on geography and as a concession to the slave states, slavery being a major source of contention in the formation of the union of states. Voting rights and representation for residents of the District were not addressed in the Constitution. There were more pivotal issues at the time. The history of the centuries-long quest by the citizens of Washington, D.C. for voting representation in the national government that rules them is interesting reading: District of Columbia voting rights in Wikipedia is a good place to start.

The New World Order folks and many Evangelical “Christians” will want to dismiss this, but I thought this was particularly telling (copied from Wikipedia, footnoted): 

Since 2006, the United Nations Human Rights Committee report has cited the United States for denying DC residents voting rights in violation of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, a treaty the United States ratified in 1992.[37]

In 2015, DC became a member of the Unrepresented Nations and Peoples Organization.[38]

P.S. I don’t know how bill numbering works exactly, but the symbolism of H.R. 51 is not lost on me. It is with particular irony that I note, as a resident of eastern Washington, that local legislators and former legislators Matt Shea, McCaslin Jr., Mike Fagan and others have been agitating for their theocratic 51st State, the “State of Liberty” for years. Stripped of all its trappings, Shea’s and McCaslin’s 51st state would give voters who already have a voting say in their governance two more U.S. Senators. In contrast, their Republican compatriots in the U.S. House of Representatives just voted against offering any representation to those unrepresented people our Constitution failed to even consider..

You will note that apart from the mention of slavery in the history of the establishment of the District of Columbia, I have not brought up race. I don’t need to. Knowing Matt Shea’s ties to the Byrds (the founders of the Marble Community in northern Stevens County), the region’s history with Richard Butler and his Aryan Nations, and Shea’s comrade in arms, ID State Rep Heather Scott’s, waving the Confederate battle flag as a dogwhistle, the underlying message seems painfully obvious.

Facebook and Judd Legum

The purpose of today’s post is to introduce you to an email I find well-researched and instructive. Its author is Judd Legum, his website and email are Popular Information,  Click on the Subscribe bottom on that page to receive his usually daily email article. Popular Information is published by Substack, a new (2017) facilitator of email newsletter publishing. Popular Information does not depend on advertising. 

Judd Legum is young (41), but experienced in the world of online journalism. At age 26 in 2005, Mr. Legum founded ThinkProgress, an online progressive news site that grew to a 40 person newsroom and 10 million unique visitors a month. He has an undergraduate degree in Public Policy analysis from Pomona College and a J.D. from Georgetown University. He shares with me many worries about the effects of social media and propaganda on the minds of media consumers. This WIRED article, Judd Legum Wants to Fix News With a Newsletter explains Legum’s intent and underlying concerns.

I encourage you to click and read Legum’s Murder exposes Facebook’s Boogaloo problem. This article hit my inbox as I was writing about Matt Shea’s inciting armed protestors against Governor Inslee’s Covid-19 lockdown. It resonated even more as armed vigilantes (“militia”) appeared in response to bogus Facebook rumors of “Antifa” showing up at Black Lives Matter demonstrations in Spokane, Sandpoint and many other communities. 

I recommend browsing his recent series discussing Facebook, how Facebook works, and the recent exodus of advertisers from Facebook as a protest of Zuckerberg’s unwillingness to limit inflammatory, hateful, and deceitful posts. 

That’s all I have energy for today. Please consider signing up for Judd Legum’s Popular Information email. This sort of thing might be the future of thoughtful journalism. 

Keep to the high ground,

Guild Contract-Full Sad History

This morning the following article on the history of Spokane Police Guild contracts and civilian oversight of the Spokane police force came to my attention. If you want to the full-meal-deal on the history of this multi-decade saga, I urge you to click and read. It is well written, comprehensive background:


This article was my introduction to “nw news network.” I like what I see. The author, Nicholas Deshais (pronounce “de SHAY,” I think) is not new to me. I have read his articles in the Spokesman and recently I’ve heard him on Spokane Public Radio. Since 2016, I have started paying attention to bylines. I urge you to do the same.

Keep to the high ground,

Police Guild Contract– Again

Tonight the Spokane City Council will vote on whether to approve the proposed contract between the City of Spokane and the Spokane Police Guild (i.e. the police union). The vote will mark yet one more step in a fourteen year battle to put the Spokane police under civilian oversight, a battle that started with the fatal beating of Otto Zehm by Spokane Police and the chilling salute with which members of the Guild honored their Guild brother convicted of the beating.

(This vote was supposed to occur two weeks ago, June 15th, the day I first wrote about it (Police Guild Contract Signing), but at that meeting the issue was tabled, that is, rescheduled for consideration at the meeting this evening.) 

Tonight the realities of governing intersect with public outrage, part of the ongoing national outrage over the murder of George Floyd by a policeman in Minneapolis.

I cannot find an article that defends the Police Guild contract. Most of the controversy focuses on “Article 27” the fourteen pages of the more than seventy page contract that deal with how the Office of Police Ombudsman interacts with the Police Guild. Article 27 is dissected in a devastating opinion piece by Shawn Vestal that appeared in the June 19 Spokesman. [I’ve linked and copied it below–it is worth your time to read.] If you have a subscription I also recommend Stacey Cowles’ Editorial “Send Spokane Police Guild contract back for more work

So now that most everyone agrees it is just plain wrong for the Police Guild to being dictating the terms of its own oversight, what is the best and surest way of getting rid of Article 27?

Well, if we could turn back the clock a bit, not electing a (Republican) Mayor, Nadine Woodward, a mayor (like her predecessor) with the endorsement and support of the union with which she promised to speedily negotiate a contract. Not electing David Condon Mayor of Spokane for two terms before Woodward might have been even better, since, according to Mr. Vestal, it was Mayor Condon who is responsible for the version of Article 27 that appeared in the previous contract, an article most think violates Section 129 of the Spokane City Charter, a charter section established by a vote of the people in 2013.

Since we cannot turn back the clock, understand this: The contract up for a vote tonight was negotiated by Mayor Woodward’s office without the input of the City Council. The Council cannot modify it. It can only vote yes or no. The contract covers the period 2017 to the end of this year, 2020. If the Council votes NO the contract is sent back and, at the discretion of the Guild, either is re-negotiated with Mayor Woodward’s office or [more likely] the contract is submitted for binding arbitration. Either process could take another year. During that time the Office of Police Ombudsman would continue to operate in a weakened condition under the rules negotiated by the previous mayor. By the time all that is worked out, the current awareness, outrage, and attention by the citizenry may have dissipated, may have moved on, for example, to the drama of this fall’s national election. 

If the Council votes NO, like most seem to be calling for, the rules of the game may dictate a less than satisfactory outcome as outlined in the last paragraph. What if the Council collectively swallows hard and votes YES? It’s a gamble. On the one hand, all those calling for major reform will be (at least initially) very unhappy. The Councilpeople voting YES will have a lot of explaining to do. A YES vote would give the Guild the raise it sought, a bargaining chip the City would have given up. BUT, with the current outrage at fever pitch there is a good chance that negotiation on the next–and presumably much improved–contract could be completed quickly and put in place January 1, 2021, that is, six months from now. This YES vote scenario, to make it happen, depends on good faith deals, promises, and trust, a commodity recently in very short supply. For the Council to vote YES to the contract on the table tonight would be a gamble that could backfire, but if it did not backfire the City of Spokane could have an unfettered Ombudsman’s Office by January 1, six months from now. 

This will be interesting to watch. What can we do? Keep up the outrage, add to the emails, letters, and speeches that call for throwing out Article 27, communications directed not just at the Council but at the Mayor and at the Guild–so the latter two know they cannot sweep this one under the rug. Few city issues have generated this much attention. We cannot let the attention be wasted. No matter which way the Council votes, it will be the final outcome that matters. Navigating governance to get the right result is tricky business. 

Keep to the high ground,

P.S. Understand, too, that several of the Councilperson’s histories suggest strong support for an independent, powerful Ombudsman. Breean Beggs, after all, represented the family of Otto Zehm in court. 

P.P.S. The opinion piece by Shawn Vestal referenced above:
It’s a long way from our city charter’s claims to our handcuffed system of police oversight

By Shawn Vestal 
(509) 459-5431

Section 129 of the Spokane City Charter is where the sunshine of optimism shines most brightly with regard to police oversight.

That section enshrines the authority of the ombudsman to “independently investigate any matter necessary” with regard to police complaints and to publish reports about its findings.

Clear and simple.

Article 27 of the city’s contract with the Spokane Police Guild, on the other hand, is where that independence goes to die.

The operations of the ombudsman office were subsumed into the last Guild contract by the Condon administration, and a new proposed contract would weaken the ombudsman’s independence further. Article 27 exists only because civilian oversight has been subsumed to the right of public union workers to collectively bargain over working conditions – and submitting to independent review of their actions is a working condition the cops just can’t get behind.

It will take state law to truly open the way for change on that front. I wrote about that earlier this week as one avenue toward rebalancing authority between citizens and police; today I want to emphasize another tool: sustained citizen pressure.

The past few weeks have taught us that when citizens raise their voices, they can effect change. If citizens and leaders in Spokane want to fulfill the promise of the city charter, they need to do more than wait for changes in state law, or blame the previous administration for its bad contract, or grumble or complain.

They need to raise hell about Article 27. They need to make everyone involved with it profoundly uncomfortable with it. They need to not let it persist quietly, an entrenched affront to the values in the city charter.

They are such simple, appealing principles, after all: Independent investigations. Public reports on the findings.

Here is how the proposed Article 27 claims to meet them.

Say a complaint about an officer whacking someone on the head with a nightstick comes in to the Office of the Police Ombudsman. Our ombudsman then decides if it should be sent to the Spokane Police Department’s Internal Affairs Division or referred for mediation with the chief of police.

In making that determination, our independent ombudsman “may,” according to Article 27, conduct a preliminary investigation, in which he or she would be allowed to interview the actual complainant and other witnesses “as reasonably necessary.”

(In addition to the rules about what happens to complaints that come to the OPO, Article 27 sets out that, when IA receives complaints directly, it will notify the ombudsman of those, as well as the opening of any criminal investigations into officers. IA will have 10 full business days to do so.)

If the ombudsman feels a complaint requires investigation, he will forward it to IA. With very few exceptions, everything that follows will proceed under the auspices of the IA process, to which the ombudsman is chiefly an observer. The chief will first decide if an IA investigation is warranted at all, or if some other, lower-level internal investigation is due.

If an IA probe is opened, the ombudsman will be notified and allowed to attend the interviews IA conducts and ask questions (though not do independent interviews), review evidence, and receive a copy of the case file when IA makes its determination.

If, on the other hand, no investigation is deemed warranted by the chief, and the ombudsman disagrees, he may appeal the decision to the chief. The chief’s decision on his earlier decision will be final.

At that point, the OPO may conduct its own limited investigation into the lack of an investigation and publish a limited report, though Article 27 won’t allow any police officer to be identified.

Now, if an IA investigation is completed, our ombudsman may review that investigation and determine only whether it was “thorough and objective.”

What, you may ask, happens if our independent ombudsman feels the complaint was not thorough, objective or otherwise investigated properly? First, he may ask IA for further investigation. If IA and the ombudsman disagree about the need for more investigation, the ombudsman may appeal to the chief, who will decide whether IA will conduct any further investigation.

If our independent ombudsman remains unsatisfied – having received a complaint about police conduct and forwarded it to IA; having accepted the final decision of the chief as to how the complaint will be investigated and sat in on the IA investigation that followed; and having asked for further investigation and been rebuffed by IA and the chief – a request may be made to the OPO Commission to approve its own investigation, so long as the case is a “serious matter” by the lights of Article 27.

Article 27 goes on to detail what kind of paperwork our independent ombudsman must keep regarding this request for an independent investigation, including a log of evidence that the ombudsman must provide “promptly” to IA. If the commission calls for more investigation, it must then provide IA an opportunity to complete the further investigation that it previously refused to do; if it does not, then and only then could our independent OPO conduct or order its own investigation.

Article 27 makes it clear that police officers would not have to comply with that investigation. It also puts blinders on what the ombudsman can tell the public after its work: A closing report may make policy recommendations, but may not identify any member of the department or even make reference to any discipline in the case.

Can you follow that? The conditions the Guild has been allowed to place on the ombudsman via this contract are a death grip on the charter’s call for independence. The current proposal adds a new layer of interference in the OPO’s independence, expanding the union’s authority to help choose the ombudsmen and members of the OPO Commission, and determine the terms of their service.

The City Council has balked at approving it; in a sane world, Article 27 would require massive revision, if not complete excision, before the contract is approved.

But we do not live in a sane world.

If you care about police accountability in Spokane, don’t forget Article 27.

And if you care about Article 27, say so.