Seattle's police accountability system is riddled with loopholes, and the effort to close them by passing an accountability reform law is finally moving forward today after years of delays.
But that process is taking place in secret, over the strong objections of the city's Community Police Commission (CPC).
"There's a whole community that does not trust the process as it is now," said Fé Lopez, the Executive Director of the CPC. "This could be the best reform product ever, but if people don't trust how it was created... it's going to be a hard sell."
She pointed to the outcry after the Che Taylor shooting, and to surveys showing that public confidence in the SPD among African-Americans has not improved since the start of the DOJ reform process. After the shooting, civil rights attorney James Bible called the reforms "a model of how to perpetuate wrongdoings."
The meetings are between City Attorney Pete Holmes, representatives of the SPD, the City Attorney's Office, Mayor's Office, CPC, Office of Professional Accountability (OPA), OPA Auditor, OPA Review Board, Department of Justice and the federal monitor Merrick Bobb's team.
City Attorney spokesperson Kimberly Mills said the purpose of the meetings is to gather stakeholders and come up with answers to questions posed by federal judge James Robart, who is overseeing the consent decree reform process started by the Department of Justice in 2011. Holmes will submit answers to the judge's questions by April 6. The starting point for the negotiations is the accountability reform ordinance proposed by the Community Police Commission.
Mills said the meetings are not subject to Washington's Open Public Meetings Act.
"This is [Pete's] responsibility to the judge," she said. "This is what he was instructed to do... This doesn't violate the public trust."
Howard Gale—a local transparency activist described memorably by Cienna Madrid as an "information pit bull"—went to the City Attorney's office this morning to sit on the first meeting. He was denied entrance and handed a piece of paper claiming "this is not a meeting of a governing body or any committee established by the governing body, in this case the City Council."
UPDATE from comedian Brett Hamil: