Here. It. Is!
The city's Community Police Commission (CPC) is acting swiftly after federal judge James Robart punted long-delayed reforms of the Seattle's police accountability system to the city, unveiling a 42-page bill to make those reforms into law.
The judge ordered the city to send him the proposed law for review, ahead of a big hearing on Monday in which Robart will weigh in on the overall status of police reform in Seattle. Now it's up to Mayor Ed Murray and City Attorney Pete Holmes to submit the proposed law to the court.
As part of a push to get this law finally passed, the commission released its proposal on Thursday, just days after Robart's order. It's the product of thousands of hours, over years, of work by Seattle's 15-member all-volunteer commission—a group set up in 2012 to represent the community during the police reform process.
The group includes police officers, homeless advocates, public defenders, nonprofit leaders, and activists. It includes Jay Hollingsworth, who has painstakingly worked on these reforms as a way to honor his close friend, woodcarver John T. Williams, who was fatally shot by police officer Ian Birk in 2010—the incident that led to federal intervention in the first place.
They developed the law in consultation with (and in occasional opposition to) all of the official bodies involved in police reform, including the Mayor Ed Murray, the Seattle City Council, the federal monitor, and the judge.
The law has the tacit support of 47 prominent community leaders, who wanted it passed and made real last year.
The law would radically strengthen civilian oversight of police in Seattle. It would:
- Abolish the Discipline Review Board, a body created by the city's contract with the Seattle Police Officers Guild (SPOG) that allows a panel stacked two-to-one with police to overturn officer discipline. (Cynthia Whitlatch, a cop fired for racial bias, wants her job back and is currently appealing to the board.)
- Open the city's negotiations with police unions up to public scrutiny, and give civilian oversight bodies an advisory role in those negotiations.
- Give the Office of Professional Accountability (OPA) subpoena power and jurisdiction over criminal conduct.
- Create a standardized discipline matrix to discourage ad hoc, politicized disciplinary decisions by police commanders.
- Require SPD to keep accessible databases on stops, frisks, use of force, and discipline to guard against patterns of abuse.
- Give the OPA to freedom to hire civilian investigators, so that cops don't investigate each other when they're accused of misconduct. Unlike in the city's proposed contract with SPOG, there would be no requirement for these civilians to have previous law enforcement experience.
- Give political and budgetary independence to the CPC, a civilian Inspector General, and the OPA.
- Give the Inspector General the power to enforce compliance with the city's intelligence ordinance, which is designed to limit police spying on dissidents.
- Encourage the use of independent prosecutors outside Seattle and King County to investigate killings by police.
Want this law passed? Attend the hearing on Monday to see what happens, and watch your elected representatives closely.