SEATTLE Police Chief candidate Kathleen O’Toole was introduced to the city by Mayor Ed Murray in late May. Her nomination was confirmed Monday by the Seattle City Council, and she was sworn in as head of SPD.
The new chief deserves some time to get settled into the job. … Well, that’s over. The SPD’s remedial to-do list demands immediate attention.
O’Toole brings an extraordinary résumé to Seattle’s top law-enforcement job, and every skill and hard-earned experience will be employed.
Lots of reforms are in play as a result of the 2012 consent decree between the city and the U.S. Justice Department dealing with excessive force and biased policing.
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Merrick Bobb, the federal monitor overseeing progress for the U.S. District Court in Seattle, filed a generally positive report last week.
In light of all that has transpired, and given the issues that caught the DOJ’s attention, three issues deserve extra attention.
• Improve therole of front-line supervision. The SPD has a June 30 deadline to put more sergeants on the street. That might slip by, but the larger commitment by senior management is key. Bolster the ranks of the front-line supervisors.
Daily supervision of routine policing is huge for the community and the professionalism of the department. Those sergeants enforce standards and oversee performance as they lead and offer on-the-job training out on the streets.
• One of the unmitigated disasters — maybe “frauds” is a better word — is the SPD discipline scam. The system appears to be a carefully crafted, premeditated process to stall and avoid any kind of serious review or punishment.
A serious review system is about more than discipline. It is the foundation for nurturing credibility in the community.
• Fix an obvious omission in the SPD tool kit — the use of data to help guide and inform effective policing. The department needs to get into the late 20th century — at least — with its information technology. How can the skills, abilities and resources of the SPD be best applied?
The federal monitor used a grimly ironic phrase to describe the failures of the department’s business system: “In short, SPD’s approach as of late April calls for the Department to fire first and aim later, if at all.”
Some might argue that attitude first attracted the attention of the DOJ.
Welcome Chief O’Toole. Any progress to report?
Editorial board members are editorial page editor Kate Riley, Frank A. Blethen, Ryan Blethen, Sharon Pian Chan, Lance Dickie, Jonathan Martin, Erik Smith, Thanh Tan, William K. Blethen (emeritus) and Robert C. Blethen (emeritus).