In an email sent to her officers, Seattle Police Chief Kathleen O’Toole praised their “real, measurable success” and attached a memorandum that takes the position the department has met its federally mandated obligations to address excessive force and biased policing.
Responding to a federal monitor’s report that the Seattle Police Department has yet to comply with court-ordered reforms, Police Chief Kathleen O’Toole has sent an email to her officers praising them for their “real, measurable success.”
O’Toole also attached a 47-page memorandum from two top aides that takes the position the department has met its obligations under a 2012 consent decree with the U.S. Justice Department to address excessive force and biased policing.
“I am requesting that the Mayor’s Office and City Attorney highlight these compelling arguments and conclusions in the City’s response to the Monitor’s filing,” O’Toole wrote Friday night in the departmentwide email.
U.S. District Judge James Robart, who ultimately will decide whether the Police Department is in compliance, has asked for responses from the parties to the report by monitor Merrick Bobb.
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The city and Justice Department have yet to spell out their positions. Among their options is asking Robart to find the Police Department in full compliance, which would be followed by a two-year period to show the reforms have taken hold.
On Friday afternoon, Bobb filed a status report concluding that despite making a “great deal of progress,” the Police Department hasn’t met some of the key requirements of the consent decree.
In his report, Bobb notes he has previously found, in 10 earlier assessments, that the department has reached major milestones, including dramatic improvements involving use of force and dealing with people in crisis.
But important issues remain, including questions surrounding the fatal shooting by two white officers of Charleena Lyles, a 30-year-old African-American mother of four, on June 18, according to Bobb.
“The ten assessments, all clearly important, nevertheless do not constitute all the requirements of the Consent Decree,” Bobb writes.
O’Toole, in her email, wrote: “Sadly, in our very challenging business, the next controversy or tragic event is always on the horizon. In such cases, we welcome fair scrutiny and accountability. We have institutionalized systems to ensure careful, transparent investigation and analysis. At the same time, you should be commended for the hundreds of thousands of contacts you skillfully and compassionately handle every year.”
Copies of the email and the memo were obtained by The Seattle Times under a public-disclosure request.
The memo, written by Rebecca Boatright, the department’s chief legal officer, and Brian Maxey, the chief operating officer, says there “can be no dispute that Seattle Police Department has not only met … but exceeded and continues to exceed” the terms of the consent decree.
“To the extent that concept is now ambiguous, it is so only because the Monitor, in his semi-annual reports, through his technical assistance, and in the scope of review laid out through his assessments has effectively inserted a nebulous, amorphous, wholly subjective standard of care that cannot be reconciled with either the language of the Consent Decree” or evidentiary requirements, the memo adds.
In her email, O’Toole writes, “Each day department members ask me where we stand in terms of compliance. Believe me, I wish I had a definitive answer. Nonetheless, please know that I am incredibly proud of the real, measurable success you have achieved over the past few years.”
The email cites objective measures that show crime is down, use of force is down, stops of people are fair and well documented, and that the department is a model for the nation in crisis intervention and crowd management.
“The evidence is clear and nobody can take that from you,” the chief writes.