Mayor Ed Murray: The gift that keeps on giving.
Mayor Ed Murray: The gift that keeps on giving for SPOG, Seattle's police union. Jaromir Chalabala/Shutterstock

Sponsored
22nd Annual Port Townsend Film Festival - Virtual! Streaming Sep 23 - Oct 3, 2021.
80+ films, filmmaker interviews, & special events. 10 days of on-demand independent film. Passes On Sale Now!

This post was originally published late Friday, July 1, when many readers may have missed it.

After negotiating a "mediocre at best" reform of the city's contract with the Seattle Police Officers Guild (SPOG), the mayor gave the police union another big gift today:


SPOG is beside itself with joy over Mayor Ed Murray's decision (announced on a Friday afternoon before a holiday weekend when few will notice) not to re-appoint OPA Director Pierce Murphy, whose three-year term is up today. Murphy is the civilian head of the SPD's semi-independent watchdog unit, which investigates potential misconduct.

Instead, Murray is opening up the position to a national search and has invited Murphy to re-apply for his own job. Same goes for OPA Auditor Anne Levinson, an aggressive oversight advocate who has criticized the pace of reforms under Murray.

Both Murphy and Levinson were appointees of the mayor's predecessor, Mike McGinn.

In addition to the above reaction, SPOG tweeted today, "Best news in a l"—presumably short for "Best news in a long time." Then deleted it.

Back in January, SPOG called Murphy a "wolf in sheep's clothing" on its Facebook page. Then deleted it. (They're real stand-up guys.)

Just last week, SPOG lashed out at Murphy when he announced he would investigate a police shooting in the Central District that left a man in critical condition, as if it was outrageous for Murphy to want to examine the incident more closely.

Murphy has been far from perfect. He has not been a visible leader on police accountability, particularly as the issue went national in recent years. Nor has he cultivated strong community bonds. But Murphy had a solid track record in Boise, where he was credited with reforming that department over a fourteen-year period, and was praised by the SPD's federal monitor for thorough, generally fair investigations. The powers and independence of his office have been hamstrung by—you guessed it—the city's contract with SPOG.

OPA Auditor Anne Levinson, meanwhile, had wanted to transform her post into a more powerful inspector general position, in order to create a "much more vigorous oversight system," she said today. The former judge intended to step down this summer after two terms anyway. She has been advocating for myriad changes to the system for years, to little avail. Most of her recommendations have not been implemented—either by ordinance or in contract negotiations with SPOG.

Support The Stranger

"This is the direction we've been trying to push the mayor in for some months," she said. "My hope had been we would be there by now."

Instead, Levinson has agreed to stay on in the interim, while the city waits on federal judge James Robart to hold a long-delayed August 15 hearing on a city ordinance that would reform the police accountability system.

Murray spokesperson Jeff Reading said SPOG's antipathy toward Murphy is "not the reason why" the mayor is opening up the position. "There might be qualified people out there to hold these newly configured positions," Reading said. "It's no reflection on Pierce Murphy or Anne Levinson."

Sponsored