THERE WERE ONLY five minutes to go before Seattle City Council Member Jim Compton's hearing on police racial profiling was over. (Compton had to catch a plane.) The hearing was focused on a Compton resolution that would define our city's initial efforts to combat racial profiling. In short, his resolution outlined the specific elements of a fact-finding mission on racial profiling and a strategy for recommending solutions. Compton was in a hurry to push his resolution through the committee, and announced there was only enough time to hear public testimony from a few people. Thankfully, Ben Cedeño--King County Affirmative Action Program coordinator and civil rights activist--stepped up to the microphone.

Cedeño pointed out a glaring omission in Compton's resolution: When it came time to direct the police on how to address the city's racial-profiling problem, there would be no citizen input. According to Compton's plan, this job would be left up to the Seattle Police Department and city bureaucrats. In response, Council Member Judy Nicastro floated an amendment to include citizens in the final process, and it passed 7 to 1, with Margaret Pageler dissenting.

Indeed, to Compton's evident chagrin, his October 4 Public Safety Committee hearing was hijacked, and his resolution was all but rewritten. Five additional council members showed up to the late-afternoon hearing, turning Compton's three-member committee into an eight-member convention. With additional folks like Nick Licata and Peter Steinbrueck at the table, as well as committee member Nicastro, the liberal wing of the council proceeded to pile on nine amendments to Compton's lightweight resolution.

In addition to tweaking practical matters like fact-finding deadlines and costs, amendments made bold ideological changes. For example, an important Licata amendment recommended that data regarding arrests be collected from civilians stopped by the police. Unbelievably, while this idea was originally recommended to Compton by city staffers assigned to research the issue, Compton's resolution relied on data collected solely from police. Compton, along with Pageler and Jan Drago, voted against Licata's change. It passed 5 to 3.

Compton's legislative aide, George Allen, says Compton's reluctance to include comments from those stopped and arrested stems from his wariness of micro-managing. "We haven't even selected the design team yet, and we're already making decisions about what the task force is designing?" Allen asks. "That's putting the cart before the horse."

As for leaving citizens out of the group that will be making final recommendations to the police, Allen says there are logistical problems with involving civilians in what he sees as a full-time task.

Ultimately, while Compton's name will be the one attached to Seattle's progressive racial-profiling legislation, the meat of the resolution was not his doing.