- Ansel Herz
- Mayor Ed Murray and a small band of public officials announce a package of police reforms proposals.
"We are not Ferguson in Seattle," said city council member Bruce Harrell, tossing a grave-sounding soundbite to reporters at yesterday afternoon's City Hall press conference on reforming the Seattle Police Department. Harrell didn't really explain what that meant. If it means we're setting the bar for our city's police department above Ferguson's—well, shit, I would sure hope so.
Mayor Ed Murray discussed a raft of reform proposals. They boil down to: (A) making the Community Police Commission a permanent, rather than temporary, body; (B) consolidating the Office of Professional Accountability Review Board's functions into the commission and the OPA Auditor; and (C) implementing 40 recommendations that the Community Police Commission made last spring, while leaving 15 of them to be negotiated with the police unions next year.
"Our police accountability system has, over the years, become complicated and confusing to the public," said Murray. "Today, we are announcing major reforms to bring greater fairness, independence, and transparency to the police discipline and accountability system, and to rebuild public trust."
Murray said he'll offer this package of reforms in legislation submitted to the city council for approval.
Of particular interest are the 40 recommendations of the Community Police Commission, a 12-member volunteer body that's meant to be representative of Seattle. The mayor says the SPD will be putting those 40 recommendations into practice. Back in April, though, the CPC offered a total of 55 recommendations—things like, the SPD "should adopt hiring preference points for skills needed in current policing." Of those 55, the mayor's office is ready to act on (or has already acted on) 40, which is good with the CPC. "We are very pleased the mayor has adopted most of these recommendations," said CPC cochair Diane Narasaki at today's press event.
Fifteen of those original recommendations, however, haven't been dealt with and will be negotiated with the unions. You can read the full list here. Murray wouldn't comment on those, or what exactly he will push for in the negotiation process. Hiring preference points is one of those not-yet-acted-on 15. Another among the 15: The CPC recommended that the police officers' grievance process, as delineated in their collective bargaining agreement, should only be used to to deal with contract disputes, rather than disciplinary findings. That will also be up for negotiation.
Murray was flanked today by the two chairs of the Community Police Commission, police chief Kathleen O'Toole, OPA director Pierce Murphy—who recently moved out of SPD headquarters in a bid to become more accessible and independent—and Council Members Harrell and Tim Burgess.
Not up there with the mayor? Representatives of two police unions, the Seattle Police Officers Guild (SPOG) and the Seattle Police Management Association, which have long fought reforms. Ron Smith, SPOG's President, says he looks forward to "seeing what's in this package"—and to starting the negotiation process over their collective bargaining agreement in January.
The mayor joked that this press conference was a much easier affair than the last one that he held on police accountability. Presumably, he was referring to this one last February, back when he was defending interim police chief Harry Bailey's reversals of misconduct findings. Murray will be looking to turn over a new leaf on the police reform process next year.
This post has been updated since its original publication.