THE urgent call for reforms in the Seattle Police Department got lost in the political shoving match between Mayor Mike McGinn and City Attorney Pete Holmes.
As McGinn and Holmes bickered about who is really, really in charge, the citizens of Seattle did not get any remedial attention to the “long-standing and entrenched deficiencies” that so alarmed the Department of Justice in late 2011.
Maybe delay and distraction was the point. The DOJ findings on the use of excessive force and failed oversight of police officers festered on the sidelines.
On Monday, the Seattle City Council received a timely briefing from settlement monitor Merrick Bobb, who emphasized he represents neither the DOJ nor City Hall.
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He is an independent, court-appointed monitor to oversee changes in the police department.
With McGinn’s belated endorsement of the monitoring plan, Bobb’s work fully begins and could run for years. He and his team have been meeting with SPD personnel as the process inched ahead.
Seattle experienced a series of incidents that included people getting cursed out, stomped on, whacked with clubs and flashlights and shot. This conduct raised fundamental questions about police management, supervision, crisis-intervention training and attitudes.
A good department has trouble spots and repeated instances of excessive force by a relative handful of officers. For starters, Bobb wants more sergeants out supervising patrol officers. More accountability and oversight on the front lines.
Members of the new 15-member Community Police Commission will meet with City Council members Wednesday evening.
Events that shocked Seattle residents and alarmed the DOJ remain to be addressed. Initially, what the city got was two lawyers seeing who could write the snarkiest letters.
Focus on reforms and respect the role of an independent monitor. Obviously, one is needed.