The 2010 shooting of JT Williams was one of several flashpoint moments in the push for SPD reform.
Seattle’s long-awaited plan for creating civilian oversight of its police force moved forward Wednesday as Mayor Ed Murray handed off his office’s proposals for police accountability legislation.
“Good policing ultimately depends on civilian leadership,” the mayor said Wednesday.
The proposal is now in the hands of Seattle City Council member Lorena González who chairs the council’s Gender Equity, Safe Communities & New Americans committee. It would create and strengthen three separate bodies to oversee the Seattle Police Department:
- Creation of the Office of Inspector General, a fully independent office, external of SPD. This office will have jurisdiction over all SPD policies, procedures, and operations with subpoena power to compel cooperation with investigations. The office will have auditing power of OPA investigations and will be charged with evaluating outcomes, investigating patterns of misconduct, reviewing major incidents, and reviewing all aspects of the disciplinary system.
- Fully independent Office of Police Accountability, whose leadership will be appointed by the Mayor. A mix of sworn and civilian investigators will be supervised by civilian staff. This office will have subpoena power to compel cooperation with investigations and will improve the internal investigation process.
- Transform the Community Police Commission into a permanent community-led body and formalize its role in the review and revision of SPD policies that affect public trust. The Commission will review and provide input on SPD hiring as well as recommend improvements to City policies and ordinances. The Commission will serve the lead role in engagement with the community.
Gonzalez promised Wednesday a round of seven public hearings on the plans including two dedicated to public comment. The legislation will begin its path through the council February 17th.
In general, officials have praised SPD for its progress under a federal consent decree. An eight month DOJ investigation of Seattle policing released in winter 2011 revealed troubling findings about the department’s use of force. The next year, Justice filed a consent decree and negotiated a plan with SPD to overhaul the department.
In 2017, Murray and Chief Kathleen O’Toole, his fed-friendly choice to lead SPD through reform, are still wrangling with the police union over a new contract. Wednesday, Murray declined to comment on the status of the contract talks but did say civilian oversight is not negotiable. “The compliance with the federal consent decree requires that we move forward on these issues,” Murray said.
— Ed Murray (@MayorEdMurray) February 1, 2017