Police reform legislation could advance next week

By David Kroman
Crosscut archive image.

Police Chief Kathleen O'Toole with Mayor Ed Murray at a 2015 press conference

By David Kroman

Legislation to codify reforms in the Seattle Police Department, which was temporarily stalled after a contentious court hearing, could begin moving forward again as early as next week.

The prospect of early action marks progress in a long and recently tumultuous process for ensuring that police reform efforts take root. Just last month, a federal judge overseeing the reform process had sharp words about the lack of advance review by the court for proposed legislation. The judge took particular aim at the  Community Police Commission, which has been pushing for legislation.

In 2012, the City of Seattle and the Department of Justice signed a settlement agreement mandating that the Seattle Police Department fix patterns of excessive force and biased policing. Merrick J. Bobb came on as an independent monitor to oversee the reform efforts and to evaluate progress on the part of the Seattle Police Department.

The Community Police Commission (CPC) was created to provide a civilian voice in the police reform efforts. Last November, the group issued 55 recommendations for improving the SPD. But while Mayor Ed Murray has said a number of times that many of these recommendations were being implemented, legislation has not yet made the reforms immune to political sea changes.

After working with the mayor’s office for a number of months, the CPC, apparently feeling stymied by a lack of agreement with the mayor on a few items, voted in early June to submit its own legislation. But in a last minute turn of events, the CPC and the mayor’s office again agreed to work together.

That happy reunion was interrupted only 12 hours later when presiding U.S. District Court Judge James Robart scolded the parties, particularly the CPC, for not vetting the ordinance with the court. Because the proposed legislation made changes to the agreement between the Department of Justice and the City, he said, it was invalid without his approval.

The CPC was paralyzed for a short time, briefly considering a formal response to Judge Robart. But in a change of tack, the group decided to continue working with the city and run the legislation through the court.

In a CPC meeting Wednesday morning, co-chair Lisa Daugaard said they were in the process of finalizing the details of the legislation with the Mayor’s Office and Seattle Police Department. The hope is that it will be ready a week from Friday, although CPC Director Fe Lopez cautioned putting a hard date on its introduction. When ready, the package would be sent to both the Department of Justice and the Monitor for review. Then, if all goes smoothly, the legislation will advance to the Seattle City Council for review.

If the legislation is turned away, it is unclear what the already frustrated CPC would do next.


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About the Authors & Contributors

David Kroman

David Kroman

David Kroman is formerly a reporter at Crosscut, where he covered city politics.