A Seattle Police car on patrol near Second Avenue in downtown. • Photo by Matthew Zalewski
A Seattle Police car on patrol near Second Avenue in downtown. • Photo by Matthew Zalewski

The following is a statement from Mayor Murray about police accountability:

Dear Community Members:

With your vocal support, and in collaboration with city stakeholders including the Community Police Commission (CPC), we have reached a key juncture in Seattle’s police reform process. Today, consistent with your advocacy and commitment to ensure that SPD’s accountability structures are transparent, trustworthy, and include avenues for community input, the City filed a legislative package for consideration by the Federal Court overseeing the Consent Decree.

The package includes many recommendations set forth by the CPC, and incorporates technical advice provided by the Federal Court and Monitor overseeing the Consent Decree. It creates the most significant civilian oversight of the Seattle Police Department in this city’s history. It creates an independent office of the Inspector General, empowered to review and report on any aspect of SPD’s policies and practices. It increases the independence of our Office of Professional Accountability (OPA) by replacing sworn SPD personnel with civilian staff tasked with overseeing all investigations of complaints against officers. And it seeks to make permanent the Community Police Commission (CPC), enhancing its duties beyond those set forth by the Consent Decree to ensure that community input is institutionalized into Seattle’s police services.

As described in my January letter to you, the community process that resulted in today’s filing has been extensive.

In an August “status conference” at the federal court, the CPC, the City and the Department of Justice all spoke about the anticipated collaborative effort of developing legislation. Then my office began that collaborative process involving weeks of meetings and discussions between City stakeholders, including the CPC. The draft legislation that the City submitted to the Court is the product of those discussions.

Our process has been successful. The vast majority of the City’s draft legislation is consensus—agreed to by the group of stakeholders. Those fundamental agreements on what should be the overarching elements of SPD’s accountability systems include:

· An independent and civilian-led and staffed OPA that has the resources and internal mechanisms necessary to conduct fair, thorough, and timely investigations and to engender and maintain the trust of the community.

· A far-reaching and powerful Office of the Inspector General, entirely external to SPD, to provide evidence-based audits and analyses of SPD policies, procedures and practices. This office will act as, a permanent “monitor” to verify that SPD maintains its standard of excellence and its commitment to and practice of constitutional policing.

· A permanent and robust CPC to ensure that the community is heard clearly and loudly and that people of this City, especially those whose voices are most often marginalized, have a permanent place at the table to mandate police accountability today and in the future.

We still have far to go in this process toward reaching completed legislation. As may be expected in this technical and complicated area in which many good-intentioned people have principled differences in opinions, there were and are some open questions as to certain components and we will still have a legislative process.

We anticipate that any comments on the draft legislation by the Department of Justice will be sent to the Court by October 28, 2016. After those comments are submitted, the Court will begin its 90-day review period of the legislation to determine whether it is consistent with the terms and purpose of the Consent Decree.

After hearing from the Court, the City will begin its formal legislative process. First, I will finalize the legislation and transmit it to City Council for consideration over a number of public meetings. Once the committee process concludes, the legislation will proceed before the full Council for deliberation and ultimate adoption. We acknowledge that this legislative process has taken longer than we all would have wished. At the same time, we must also recognize the Federal Court’s direction, and our city’s need, to “get this right.” Change does not occur overnight. But we are implementing change at SPD, as we set an example for the nation of reforming the relationship between the community and police.

Along with you, I am committed to embracing this historic opportunity to reform our police department and will keep you informed as we continue to progress towards compliance under the Consent Decree.

Sincerely,

Edward B. Murray

Mayor of Seattle

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