About Us

On October 6, 2008 the Spokane City Council officially adopted legislation to establish the Office of Police Ombudsman. This Office was established to provide independent civilian oversight for misconduct complaints involving members of the Spokane Police Department. The Ombudsman’s Office is independent from all other City departments and reports directly to the Mayor and City Council. In addition to providing civilian oversight, the Office of Police Ombudsman may recommend policies and procedures for review and review and recommend changes in departmental policies to improve the quality of police investigations and practices.

Office of Police Ombudsman, Enabling Ordinance (Spokane Municipal Code, Chapter 4.32)
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Mission

The Office of Police Ombudsman exists to promote public confidence in the professionalism and accountability of the members of the Spokane Police Department by providing independent review of police actions, thoughtful policy recommendations and ongoing community outreach.
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Guiding Principles

The Office of Police Ombudsman will strive to:
  • Provide equal, fair and impartial access to the services of the Office of  Police Ombudsman without regard to age, race, gender, creed, color, nationality, sexual orientation, or socio-economic standing.
  • Insure that all individuals will be treated with courtesy, dignity and respect regardless of their attitude or demeanor.
  • Deliver service in a timely, thorough and objective manner.

The Ombudsman believes: 

  • In the empowerment of all people to solve problems and receive service.
  • Individuals must be responsible and accountable for their personal and professional actions and behavior.

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Code of Ethics

The Office of Police Ombudsman subscribes to and has adopted the National Association for Civilian Oversight of Law Enforcement Code of Ethics.

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Staff Profiles

Tim Burns
Police Ombudsman

Elysia Spencer
Assistant to Police Ombudsman

Tim Szambelan
Police Ombudsman Attorney

History of the Public Sector Ombudsman

For as long as government has existed, guaranteeing citizens fair and equitable treatment under the law has been an issue and various protections have been utilized over the years. In modern times the public sector Ombudsman, where instituted, has been a successful and valuable guarantor of citizens’ rights. By impartial and independent investigation of citizens’ complaints, it has provided an informal and accessible avenue of redress.

The first public sector ombudsman (OM-budz-man, -buhdz-, -boodz-) was appointed by the Parliament of Sweden of 1809. The Swedish Constitution divided and balanced power between the king and Parliament with the king having executive powers and Parliament retaining legislative power. The ombudsman, who was appointed by and responsible to Parliament, was to protect individual rights against the excesses of the bureaucracy.

This first ombudsman’s office, since its creation, has been the model for the public sector ombudsman, and set the definition that is still accepted today: a public official appointed by the legislature to receive and investigate citizen complaints against administrative acts of government. These acts may or may not include the administrative acts of the judiciary or the legislature, depending upon the statute.

The ombudsman concept spread through Europe and to this continent with the first offices being established in the United States in the mid 60’s. This was a time in the United States when exposure of government secrecy and scandal, and when movements such as civil rights and good government created a political atmosphere more favorable to openness, and to establishing recourse for the aggrieved.

Hawaii established the first public sector office in 1967. Since then a number of states, counties and municipalities have followed suit by establishing offices of general jurisdiction.

The ombudsman movement in the United States has also been characterized by offices that represent a departure from the Swedish model. These variations would include offices with general jurisdiction but appointment by a governor or mayor, legislative offices with special jurisdiction such as corrections, and single agency ombudsman with statutory authority.