A federal judge today approved Los Angeles police consultant Merrick Bobb as the independent monitor to oversee Seattle police reforms, putting the job in the hands of a person resisted by Police Chief John Diaz and police commanders.
The city of Seattle and the Department of Justice filed a joint request last week asking a U.S. District Judge James Robart to appoint Bobb, widely considered to be one of the nation’s foremost pioneers and experts in the field of police reforms and accountability. A court order was issued approving Bobb as the monitor.
Robart is presiding over a settlement agreement reached in July between the city and federal attorneys, which calls for changes in the Seattle Police Department to curb excessive force by officers and address biased policing.
Mayor Mike McGinn and police officer had opposed Bobb’s selection, questioning whether he would be impartial because a board member for his nonprofit in Los Angeles helped write the Justice Department report, released in December, that found deficiencies in the Police Department and led to the proposed reforms.
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But the City Council, in an 8-to-1 vote Oct. 22, directed City Attorney Pete Holmes to join with the Justice Department, which had made Bobb its top choice, in asking Robart to appoint him. Council members had been advised by the city’s ethics chief that Bobb’s hiring could be done without violating conflict-of-interest rules.
McGinn’s office then announced he would respect the council vote as the city’s position, although it labeled the action a mistake that might make it more difficult to carry out reforms.