Community Police Commission Recommends Paying Officers More for Language Skills


Please stop saying "historic package of police accountability legislation," as if Seattle has radically altered who holds power over police (as, for example, Newark, NJ has).

The new legislation effects three entities: the Community Police Commission (CPC), the Office of Police Accountability (OPA), and the Office of Inspector General (OIG). These are, for the most part, restructured versions of existing city entities (the IG replaces the long existing OPA auditor).

Neither the CPC nor the OIG have power: they are advisory bodies. The OIG can request the OPA re-investigate a complaint, but they will have no enforcement power. There is only one entity that can finalize an investigation and only one entity that can recommend discipline for officers: the OPA, which has, and will continue, to operate at the sole discretion of the OPA Director.

The OPA will, for the first time, have civilian supervisors for investigations, and an indeterminate mix of civilian and SPD officer investigators. While this is an improvement, it fails to address two current failures of the OPA: (1) that the OPA director can summarily, and without explanation, determine that some complaints need not be investigated or acted upon; and (2) that SPD officer written "Use of Force" reports are routinely accepted as evidence, as opposed to simply being one witness's testimony -- these statements from officers hold undue weight in investigations.

Problems that have compromised police accountability for 18 years (!!) will continue under the new legislation. This is fundamentally the same OPA that failed in June 2016 to complete an investigation into a mentally ill man shot four times by a Seattle police officer because he was holding knives. Sound familiar? The OPA completed their investigation -- still unreleased -- after Charleena Lyles was killed.

The most significant change in the new legislation is restricting the appeals that SPD officers can make regarding discipline, and that hearing bodies will be staffed with individuals that are not police. But this must be considered in the context that the Chief of Police always has the final say as to whether discipline (including firing) will be imposed. This allows for the possibility that in the future more disciplinary decisions by OPA are overturned by the Chief of Police rather than biased internal boards, once more leaving the power with the police, not with civilians.
This seems like a much better idea than trying to place peace corp volunteers on an equal hiring status as military vets. Its actually such a good idea I can hardly believe these dopes agree with it.
It's interesting that one of the recommendations is to hire more officers of color, when nationwide stats clearly show officers of color are more likely to use lethal force against people of color than their white counterparts. Yes, you read that correctly.
Language skills and greater diversity within the SPD are desirable. But Charleena Lyles spoke English. Real accountability that is entirely independent of the SPD should be our first police reform priority. Having followed this issue, including attending a recent CPC meeting that revealed deep inadequacies in OPA operations and SPD Use of Force reports, I'm disappointed that The Stranger is not looking into the reality of the new legislation. This post by the often-excellent Sydney popping up in the absence of a deeper discussion in The Stranger gives the impression that cultural lack of understanding is the biggest problem within SPD, when what we have at root is a justice problem. SPD is not truly accountable to anyone but the SPD. Seattle media are describing the new legislation as "historic" and "groundbreaking." But who among them has actually read the legislation or spent the time to sketch out what it will institute compared to the very flawed system we have now? HJGale@1 brings up substantial issues about the new legislation, pointing out that the OPA post-legislation will be quite similar to the OPA of the present. That is still totally under the radar of local media--probably because reading and understanding this complicated stuff is very time-consuming. Are we really making progress? Maybe not as much as we're led to believe. Please grapple with this, Stranger. We need you--mainstream Seattle media is not on it and doesn't get it.
@2: Soldiers are the last people we should be hiring to work in our neighborhoods as peace officers. They definitely should not be on equal footing with Peace Corps volunteers.