Confronted with pressing issues in the Seattle Police Department, Mayor-elect Ed Murray on Wednesday tapped a nationally known law-enforcement official to advise him on public-safety matters as he prepares to take office in January.
Bernard Melekian, 64, a California consultant and former police chief in Pasadena, most recently served from 2009 until this year as director of the U.S. Justice Department’s Office of Community Oriented Policing Services (COPS), which provides grants, training and technical assistance to law-enforcement agencies throughout the United States.
Melekian will be paid $30,000 from funds provided by the Seattle City Council to assist in the transition, a Murray spokesman said.
The Seattle Police Department is currently under a federal court order requiring it to adopt reforms to curtail excessive force and curb biased policing — issues cited in a 2011 report by the Justice Department. The city and Justice Department reached a settlement agreement last year calling for the sweeping reforms.
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Murray’s selection of Melekian comes less than a week after the federal monitor overseeing the reforms, Merrick Bobb, submitted a highly critical draft report Friday to the city of Seattle on the progress of the reforms.
He described resistance to the changes among some in the top ranks of the department, error-ridden collection of critical data and faulty reviews of shootings by officers.
Murray has said a top priority when he takes office will be the selection of a permanent police chief of the police department, now headed by Interim Chief Jim Pugel. Melekian will assist Murray in designing a national search.
In a statement, Murray called the selection of the chief the most important he’ll make in the next four years.
Melekian, who declined to be interviewed Wednesday, is widely viewed as a progressive police leader. When appointed to the COPS post, he said he hoped to make the office less of a “federal ATM” and more of a funding tool to carry out best practices and promote thoughtful approaches to problem-solving, according to The Washington Post.
In a written statement, Melekian, who holds a doctorate degree in policy, planning and development from the University of Southern California, said he has spent his “entire adult life” working with local law enforcement.
Melekian is the founder and president of The Paratus Group, a law-enforcement consulting firm based in Santa Barbara, Calif.
He also served for 13 years as police chief in Pasadena, from 1996 to 2009. There he shifted the focus of officer decision-making from “Can I do this?” to “Should I do this?,” according to his personal biography.
From 2004 to 2009, he worked as a senior adviser to the nonprofit Police Assessment Resource Center in Los Angeles, which is headed by Bobb, the federal monitor.
While police chief, Melekian conducted internal reviews for the Oakland and Los Angeles police departments and chaired a California state commission on police on special weapons and tactics (SWAT).
Before holding the chief’s job, Melekian served as a police officer in Santa Monica, Calif., for more than 20 years, holding various ranks up to assistant chief and earning medals for valor and courage, according to biography information.
In a statement, Murray said, “During the campaign I talked about how public safety will be job one for my administration. Broadly speaking, this means restoring the morale of (the) police force, making critical reforms to our police force and, ultimately, building confidence in our police force across our many diverse communities.”
Murray cited Melekian’s broad experience in government, academic research and as a consultant.
In a written statement, Seattle City Councilmember Bruce Harrell, chair of the council’s public-safety committee, said he looked forward to working with Murray and “moving forward with a sense of urgency on public-safety strategy that will advance positive changes in the police department.”
Councilmember Tim Burgess said he welcomed Melekian’s “fresh perspective,” saying his wide-ranging experience will “gain the confidence of our officers and the people of Seattle.”
Steve Miletich: 206-464-3302 or email@example.com