Both the Seattle City Council and Mayor Mike McGinn should thank Kathryn Olson for her decision this week to step down next year as head of the Office of Professional Accountability, which oversees the investigation of complaints against Seattle police officers and recommends discipline to the police chief.

Kathryn_Olson_4.JPGBoth the Seattle City Council and Mayor Mike McGinn should thank Kathryn Olson for her decision this week to step down next year as head of the Office of Professional Accountability, which oversees the investigation of complaints against Seattle police officers and recommends discipline to the police chief.

For the council, Olson’s announcement means it can cancel long-overdue confirmation hearings.

For the mayor, it means he can start a national search for a replacement.

Council member Tim Burgess said he met with Olson this week and told her he didn’t think she would be confirmed. But Olson told Seattle Times reporter Steve Miletich that based on her contact with council members she thought she would be.

Probably not.

Burgess also told her that her confirmation would be “problematic” for him. She probably would have faced criticism as being too solicitous of the police Guild and of having a “don’t-rock-the-boat” attitude. Plus, the council has been denied a say on her since May 2010 when her first three-year term in the $157,000-a-year job ended. Until this August, she served in the job without being reappointed by the mayor and without the required confirmation from the council.

As the Times said in an editorial in August, the limbo created by this situation undermined public confidence in how seriously the mayor took police oversight and the changes called for by the U.S. Department of Justice after it found that Seattle police had been too quick to use force and that biased policing against minorities may have taken place.

Olson’s resignation gives McGinn a chance to post the job and find a candidate with national prominence in police matters and who has paid special attention to making sure police do their jobs fairly as well as effectively. The search should begin immediately to avoid the kind of damaging limbo that resulted from taking so long to reappoint Olson.