BUSINESS as usual is not an option for the Seattle Police Department as it works to satisfy a federal mandate to reform policing practices.
Details matter, and Seattle City Council member Tim Burgess has challenged a long-standing city ordinance that limits the police chief to filling the top six departmental positions from within the ranks of the SPD.
Burgess has proposed a change to the 1978 City of Seattle Public Safety Civil Service Ordinance, and it was co-sponsored by City Councilmember Bruce Harrell, who chairs the council’s public-safety committee.
Unfortunately, Harrell put consideration of the change on hold until January. This revision should be dealt with right away because it is fundamental to the broadest possible recruitment of the next chief.
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There is nothing unusual about a candidate from outside the department possibly filling key positions with talent from elsewhere. Not having that option available would predictably discourage some candidates from applying.
Make the change, and do not water down the intent of bringing new approaches and innovative ideas into SPD management.
Talk is circulating about making the change effective for a few years, then switching back. Or limiting the change to a couple of positions, and leaving the rest alone. No, change the ordinance and move ahead.
The blunt assessment from the Department of Justice about use of force and biased policing has put lots of procedures, protocols and practices under scrutiny.
The department does not have a rotation plan that moves law enforcement officers through various assignments and training. Nor is there a plan to move officers up through the ranks.
The Seattle City Council has provided Mayor-elect Ed Murray with money for an outside review of police management, and extra funds to expand recruitment for the next chief of police.
All the pieces have to fit together, not only to encourage change but also allow it to happen. Maximize the options for the next chief to fill key management posts.