Hoping to avert a lawsuit, Mayor Mike McGinn will present the city's plan for police to federal attorneys this week

Share story

Seattle officials will present their plan to reform the Seattle Police Department to the U.S. Justice Department this week, setting the stage for a negotiated settlement or a lawsuit if federal attorneys decide the plan doesn’t go far enough.

Mayor Mike McGinn spent much of last week defending the city’s “20/20” plan to address the Justice Department’s finding last year that Seattle police officers routinely use excessive force.

Listing 20 reforms to be carried out in 20 months, it includes increased training for officers in the use of force and how to de-escalate potentially violent confrontations.

McGinn, who agreed change is needed, said the city plan likely could be accomplished within the existing police budget, contrasting that to what he asserted could be $5 million a year in costs under remedies proposed by the Justice Department. He said the plan, which is already being implemented, goes beyond the Justice Department’s remedies.

U.S. Attorney Jenny Durkan in Seattle has said the Justice Department will ultimately insist on a court-enforced consent decree, with a monitor, to ensure needed changes take hold. Such an agreement could be open-ended, with the length of time determined by the rate of compliance.

Both sides have declined to discuss what measures the Justice Department is seeking.

But sources familiar with the talks revealed last week that federal attorneys want, among other things, increased supervision by sergeants; more power for the independent civilian auditor who oversees the Police Department’s internal-investigation unit; and tighter promotion policies to ensure that, in the future, commanders have worked in the internal-investigation unit and don’t have a serious discipline history.

City officials have been given a Wednesday deadline to present their response, sources said, although the city was said to be asking for a few more days.

Durkan on Friday called the “20/20” plan a “framework,” but said the city needs to provide a more detailed plan to avoid a federal civil-rights lawsuit seeking a court order requiring the city to make changes.

“We need them to put meat on the bones,” she said.

The American Civil Liberties Union of Washington, which in 2010 joined 34 groups in asking for a civil-rights investigation of the Police Department, urged the city “speedily to agree” to a consent decree, saying a lawsuit would lead to an expensive court battle that likely would produce similar conditions now sought by federal attorneys.

In December, the Justice Department found Seattle police routinely and illegally use excessive force, mostly against minorities and the impaired, and that there was disturbing but inconclusive evidence of biased policing.

Information from Seattle Times archives is included in this story.

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

Mike Carter: 206-464-3706 or mcarter@seattletimes.com