CFJ extern Katherine Freeman-Otte on being here, and now.
Certainly one of our big pushes this year has been to get Proposition 1—the city charter amendment requiring true independence for the City’s Office of Police Ombudsman—implemented.
A vital part of our team on police accountability has been extern and Gonzaga University law student Katherine Freeman-Otte. Katie joined us in June and quickly dove into just about everything we do, from casework to public policy research. But she brings a special interest and passion to her work on police oversight, and gained valuable experience in 2012 when she was intern at the City’s Office of Police Ombudsman (OPO.)
Her passion and her sense of humor come through in this audio interview with CFJ Communications Director Tim Connor that was recorded in mid-November, shortly after the city council voted unanimously to reject a new contract with the Spokane Police Guild. To the extent that the Center played a pivotal role in persuading the council to reject the agreement (because it does not, in our view, comply with Proposition 1), Katie was instrumental in the analysis that informed our advocacy. She also testified before the Spokane City Council on October 7th and garnered praise for how she turned Mayor David Condon’s adage about Spokane as a “city of choice” into a pointed critique of his failure to implement Prop. 1.
And to think it was only a few months ago that she quoted a line from the movie “Wayne’s World” in her successful extern application interview with our Barry Pfundt.
On Proposition 1: “One thing we’ve talked about a lot, and I still can’t wrap my head around it—if the voters passed, and are specifically asking for independent investigative powers, which are the traditional duties of an ombudsman, why won’t the executive office, the mayor, implement that for the citizens of Spokane? It just boggles my mind.”
On what she learned from being detained several years ago by a police officer in Yakima: “At any second they (the police) have the ability to take away your liberty. At any second. To me it was just a realization of how much power that actually is and how it truly impacts an individual’s life.”
On what the role of a police ombudsman should be: “An ombudsman is supposed to be able to go around and investigate non-disciplinary actions on his own and report his findings. If we don’t shed light and allow someone to report on complaints that the citizens have, that bridge between the community and the police, those relationships aren’t ever going to be repaired.”