The ACLU and Seattle Human Right's Commission each released statements today condemning Seattle Mayor Mike McGinn's critical comments about a frontrunner for the job of monitoring the Seattle Police Department's progress in adopting progressive policy reforms. The city is in the midst of choosing an independent monitor, in accordance with the city's settlement with the Department of Justice (DOJ).
“An effective police monitor is vital to significant, meaningful and sustained reform of the Seattle Police Department," said Jennifer Shaw, Deputy Director of the ACLU of Washington today. "Sadly, the Mayor appears willing to let the SPD decide who will monitor their performance, even though SPD performance makes it clear that a strong, independent monitor is needed. The Mayor should not thwart needed reforms by considering only candidates for monitor who are acceptable to the very agency that must be reformed.”
On Wednesday, McGinn questioned the qualifications of one of candidates, Merrick Bobb, at a jobs press conference, noting that one of the board members for Bobb's nonprofit wrote a report on the police use of force in Seattle. "We have concerns that he will not be viewed as an independent and impartial 3rd-party monitor because of that relationship," McGinn said.
The mayor worried that Bobb's connection to the DOJ would equal a perceived conflict of interest when entering into a highly polarizing job of independent SPD monitor—a conflict that the other candidates don't.
Four city council members immediately criticized McGinn for "publicly question[ing] the qualifications and integrity of one of the candidates to be appointed the monitor of the Seattle Police Department," adding that "the Mayor’s statements undermined the candidate selection process and are factually wrong." (To which the notoriously conservative police union president, Rich O'Neill, immediately and hilariously jumped to McGinn's defense.)
Today, the Seattle Human Right's Commission also weighed in on the Bobb controversy. "The Commission has had the opportunity to discuss police reform issues and best practices with Merrick Bobb and we have found his advice and insights to be thoughtful, balanced, and extremely useful," wrote HRC chairman Chris Stearns in a letter sent to McGinn. "The fact that a candidate is familiar with the situation in Seattle should not be considered a conflict but an asset. We believe that he would be an excellent Monitor and we strongly urge you to reconsider your objections to his candidacy."
While McGinn is working with the DOJ, SPD, and city officials to select and vet candidates, ultimately, the decision to hire an independent monitor rests with him—unless the city council passes legislation regarding monitor selection process, which McGinn would then be obliged to follow.