The same mediator who helped the City of Seattle and the Department of Justice reach an agreement on police reforms has been brought in to bridge differences over who should be the monitor to oversee the changes.

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The same mediator who helped the City of Seattle and the Department of Justice reach an agreement on police reforms has been brought in to bridge differences over who should be the monitor to oversee the changes.

Mayor Mike McGinn and other city officials began meeting with the mediator, Teresa Wakeen, late Wednesday morning. The effort comes after Seattle police officials privately expressed strong reservations about one of the top candidates to be the independent monitor overseeing reforms imposed on the Police Department, according to sources familiar with the search process.

The candidate, Merrick Bobb, the widely respected head of a Los Angeles police-consulting firm and a top choice of the Department of Justice, has already shown he would likely be an exacting monitor. He authored a recent report critical of internal oversight in the King County Sheriff’s Office, replete with blunt findings that quickly led to major changes.

Seattle Police Chief John Diaz and two captains, Mike Washburn and Ron Leavell, raised concerns about Bobb during a closed-door meeting last Friday of top city officials, saying they feared he held preconceived ideas that would undermine support for changes among the rank-and-file, sources said.

Their concerns reflected a belief that Bobb has an apparent conflict of interest because a member of his firm’s board worked as a consultant on the Justice Department report that led to an agreement to hire a monitor, one source familiar with the search said. The report, issued in December, found Seattle’s officers had engaged in a pattern or practice of excessive force.

Diaz and McGinn favor other candidates, including Michael Gennaco, a Los Angeles County sheriff’s watchdog, according to sources. Gennaco, a former federal prosecutor, has long been highly regarded for his police-accountability work in Southern California, but recently has come under fire over criticisms he had become too close to the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department.

Diaz and McGinn also would accept two other finalists on its list, Jeff Schlanger of KeyPoint Government Solutions in Colorado and Michael Bromwich of a Washington, D.C. firm, sources said.

The selection of a monitor represents a key step in the city’s historic settlement agreement in July with the Justice Department, which includes steps to curb excessive force and address concerns about biased policing.

Under the settlement, the city and Justice Department have until Oct. 26 to jointly submit a candidate’s name to U.S. District Judge James Robart, who must approve the selection. If the two sides can’t agree, each would submit a list of names to Robart.

Bobb, one of the nation’s leading police-oversight experts, is the choice of City Attorney Pete Holmes and some city council members, one source said.

Bobb is someone who would not just “check boxes” but also nurture change, according to the source.

Justice Department attorneys have indicated Bobb is their first choice, the source said. In addition to Bobb, the Justice Department’s finalists included Bromwich and Detroit attorney Saul Green, according to another source. Green, a former Cincinnati monitor, recently withdrew his application.

Federal attorneys are strongly opposed to Gennaco, chief attorney of the Office of Independent Review, a civilian watchdog of the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department, being named the Seattle monitor for reasons that are unclear, one source said.

One possible explanation is that the Justice Department opened a civil-rights investigation in August 2011 into allegations of discriminatory policing by the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department in the cities of Lancaster and Palmdale.

Gennaco came under scrutiny in a Sept. 24 Los Angeles Times story. The article raised questions about whether Gennaco’s office had become too close to the Sheriff’s Department in light of revelations of brutality and cover-ups in county jails.

Gennaco said Tuesday that his office has taken a “call it like you see it” approach by both backing and criticizing the Sheriff’s Department. He noted his office operates with a limited staff and has no authority to conduct independent investigations.

Peter Eliasberg, legal director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Southern California, which played a major role in exposing the jail abuses, said Tuesday that while the Sheriff’s Department bore primary responsibility, Gennaco had allowed the department to rely on him for cover, knowing the limitations of his office.

“I felt he provided kind of a patina of respectability,” Eliasberg said.

Federal officials declined to comment on the monitor search. Seattle police referred questions to Aaron Pickus, the mayor’s spokesman, who declined to comment.

One source said he believes that McGinn, who attended Friday’s meeting, fears that Bobb, with his widely known views about holding police officers accountable, would not be seen as a neutral observer.

Bobb, president of Police Assessment Resource Center, couldn’t be reached Tuesday.

Among the other finalists, Schlanger, in a previous position, oversaw widely praised changes imposed on the Los Angeles Police Department.

Bromwich served as a monitor of the District of Columbia’s police between 2002 and 2008. In 2010, his résumé says, he enacted reforms after President Obama selected him in the wake of the BP oil spill to head the federal agency responsible for offshore-drilling regulation.

Seattle Times reporter Mike Carter contributed to this report, which also contains information from Times archives.

Steve Miletich: 206-464-3302 or smiletich@seattletimes.com