Seattle Mayor Ed Murray said Friday he won’t reappoint two civilians involved in oversight of Seattle police discipline, including one repeatedly criticized by the union.
Seattle Mayor Ed Murray announced Friday he will not reappoint the civilian director of the Police Department’s internal-investigations section, whose decisions have drawn the wrath of the police union.
In a major shake-up, Murray said his decision to not grant Pierce Murphy a second three-year term stemmed from likely changes to the Police Department’s Office of Professional Accountability (OPA).
The union, which recently reached a tentative agreement with the city on a four-year contract subject to a ratification vote, posted Murray’s announcement on its Facebook page Friday.
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Murphy, originally selected by former Mayor Mike McGinn, declined to comment on Murray’s announcement issued just before the Fourth of July weekend.
Since taking the job, Murphy has restructured the office to make it more independent and transparent, in contrast to his predecessor who was seen as too closely tied to police management.
Seattle Police Chief Kathleen O’Toole has generally accepted Murphy’s findings, although she disagreed with him in one notable instance: a case in which three officers returned fire on the wrong car.
In 2015, 11 officers were fired, including six who resigned in lieu of termination, according to OPA’s annual report.
Smith hailed Murray’s move, saying, “This is good news.”
Murphy lost the confidence of the “rank and file a long time ago,” Smith said.
Most recently, Murphy rankled the union when he opened an internal investigation into a recent officer-involved shooting.
Murray spokesman Jeff Reading said there was no tie between the mayor’s actions and SPOG’s dislike of Murphy.
Smith said he looked forward to Murray conducting a national search that will replace Murphy with someone who will abide by the mutually agreed terms of collective-bargaining agreements.
He said his disagreements with Murphy weren’t part of the contract talks, but that he had made them known to O’Toole and the mayor’s team.
Murray also announced he would not offer a third three-year term to the OPA’s auditor, Anne Levinson, a civilian who makes sure OPA cases are handled properly and makes recommendations on reforms.
“Because it is likely that the positions currently occupied by OPA Director Pierce Murphy and OPA Auditor Anne Levinson will be modified as we consider legislation to improve civilian oversight of the Seattle Police Department, I would like to take a moment to publicly thank both of them for their important contributions,” Murray said in a statement.
The terms for Murphy and Levinson expired Friday. Reading said Murray’s actions were no reflection on their performance.
Murray praised Murphy and Levinson for their “tireless and instrumental service,” singling out their dealings with the U.S. Justice Department and a federal monitor arising from a 2012 court-ordered consent decree to address excessive force among officers and biased policing.
He said he has asked them to continue to serve in their current capacities until legislation is enacted on a long-delayed package of changes to the Police Department’s internal-accountability structure.
“When the legislation is adopted, I will conduct a national search process to fill each of these modified positions,” Murray said, adding, “I have notified Director Murphy and Auditor Levinson that they are welcome to apply for the modified positions.”
Levinson, reached Friday, said she informed Murray before his announcement that she didn’t want a third term and had agreed, at the mayor’s request, to temporarily remain in her position to help carry out changes.
The city is awaiting a green light from U.S. District Judge James Robart on moving ahead on the legislation, which has been delayed a year because of Robart’s concerns about how the city was proceeding.
A court hearing has been set for Aug. 15 to discuss the next step.
One key change likely to emerge in legislation is the creation of an inspector general office, overseen by a civilian whose broad responsibilities could lead to alteration of the OPA structure, according to sources familiar with the matter.
Levinson said she has pushed for that move, saying an inspector general with more staff and broader authority would be an improvement.
The Community Police Commission (CPC), a temporary civilian body created as part of the consent decree, also could be reshaped, according to sources.
Robart has chastised the 15-member CPC for seeking to prematurely perpetuate its own existence at the expense of a broader review of what should be done to bolster police oversight.
Levinson on Friday praised the work of the CPC, which originally crafted police-accountability legislation put on hold by Robart.
Lisa Daugaard, the CPC’s co-chair but speaking in her capacity as director of the Public Defender Assocation, lauded Levinson Friday, citing her work with the community and her “helpful, dogged and courageous” efforts to improve the Police Department.