Seattle City Council members intend to take a symbolic stand against Mayor Mike McGinn's efforts to dismiss their top pick for the job of the Seattle Police Department's independent monitor, Merrick Bob. However, it's unclear how forceful—or binding—that stand will be.
"The full council will forward a resolution outlining our preferred option to make Merrick Bob the person who monitors the police department's progress in meeting the requirements of the [Department of Justice's] consent decree," said a source. The resolution will be introduced today at 2:00 p.m. And yes! You will be able to watch the fun, live.
Last Wednesday, McGinn publicly questioned Bobb's credentials to fill the position of monitoring the SPD, noting that a member of Bobb's nonprofit board had written a report on the police use of force in Seattle. "We have concerns that he will not be viewed as an independent and impartial third-party monitor because of that relationship," McGinn said, prompting immediate backlash from city council members, City Attorney Pete Holmes, the ACLU of Washington, and the Seattle Human Rights Commission.
"McGinn said he felt he had the authority to appoint the monitor unless the city council passed legislation regulating it," says another source of today's legislation. "So we're taking that ball and rolling with it."
The mayor's office said they couldn't comment on the resolution until they saw a copy of it. I offered to scribble one up in crayon real quick and fax it over but they declined.
But in a letter sent over the weekend, McGinn warned council members not to dismiss SPD's input on the monitor decision because it would have "serious negative effects on reform." And SPD has apparently made it clear that they don't like Bobb.
The mayor's full letter letter to council after the jump.
Dear Councilmembers, I regret that we are reflecting division to the public regarding monitor selection.
As you contemplate your actions, I wanted to share an additional thought I have not yet articulated.
The original leak to the press about our monitor selection conversations characterized the issue as one of pro-reform versus anti-reform. I believe that framing is counterproductive.
I believe there is consensus among elected leaders on the need for positive changes to our Police Department. The question is how to achieve it.
Within our Police Department, there are those who champion change and those who are skeptical of the need for change. SPD command staff is prepared to hold itself accountable to the agreement and the public, and has made clear they found 3 of the 4 monitor candidates acceptable. These candidates are people of substance. One, Bromwich, helped prosecute Ollie North, was inspector general within DoJ, monitored the DC police force, and was asked by Obama to oversee the response to the Gulf Oil spill. Clearly no pushover. The other candidates also have impressive resumes, and I could support them as well.
Here is the important point: disregarding SPD's input regarding monitor candidates will have serious negative effects on reform. It will empower skeptics within SPD and disempower the advocates for change within the department. I cannot say exactly how much, but I believe the effects will be very significant.
I believe reform requires bringing people together around change - like the unity we displayed after reaching the agreement with DOJ. It is no small thing that we had both the police union, and those who asked for the DOJ investigation, saying they were prepared to work on implementation. Now they are sending dueling press releases.
Regardless of what happens, I will roll up my sleeves and work hard to meet the expectations of the public regarding our Seattle Police Department.
But I want to be very clear that will be much harder to accomplish if our police officers believe the monitor selection is politically driven, the monitor has a conflict of interest, and that SPD's participation in reform is unnecessary. Whether those beliefs are fair or not, they are real. I ask that you consider your next actions carefully as we proceed. I will do the same.
I am available at any time to talk and try to determine a way out of this difficult situation.