The monitor overseeing Seattle’s federally mandated police reforms has asked City Councilmember Bruce Harrell to hold off on police-accountability legislation.

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The monitor overseeing Seattle’s federally mandated police reforms has asked City Councilmember Bruce Harrell to hold off on police-accountability legislation.

In a letter Tuesday to Harrell, who chairs the council’s public-safety committee, the court-appointed monitor, Merrick Bobb, requested more time to discuss the legislation.

Mayor Ed Murray and the Community Police Commission (CPC), a civilian board created as part of a 2012 consent decree between the city and the U.S. Department of Justice to curb excessive force by police, spent the spring in talks about the legislation.

But the negotiations broke down earlier this month when members of the CPC voted to sidestep the mayor by submitting their own version directly to the City Council.

The consent decree made the CPC a temporary body tasked with submitting recommendations on the reform process and serving as a liaison between the community and the police. In the legislation, the CPC is seeking to become permanent.

The mayor and the CPC agree on many points but not all. One sticking point is a CPC proposal that would require the council’s agreement before the mayor could fire the director of the Seattle Police Department’s Office of Professional Accountability (OPA), which conducts internal investigations, and the OPA’s civilian monitor.

“You have asked me in my capacity as monitor to provide you with my views of possible legislation concerning the Community Police Commission,” Bobb wrote in his letter to Harrell, reminding the council member that any police-accountability legislation the city enacts must comply with the terms and objectives of the consent decree.

“Given the progress of the SPD in the last six months, as detailed in our most recent semiannual report, we are moving forward toward a time when it will be right to consider what form of civilian oversight is best for Seattle in the future,” Bobb wrote.

“I respectfully would appreciate an opportunity to explore these matters with the Department of Justice and city prior to any legislation being considered or acted upon.”

The CPC had planned to finalize its version of the legislation at a meeting Wednesday morning but at the last minute decided to re-engage with the mayor.

“We’ve voted to hold off on sending our proposed legislative package to the council until Monday,” said Lisa Daugaard, a CPC co-chair. “Deputy Mayor Kate Joncas came to the commission today and asked us to engage in further discussions to see if we can reach alignment on a joint package — and we agreed to do that.”

Bobb noted in his letter to Harrell that his role, as an agent of U.S. District Judge James Robart, is not to endorse specific legislation or particular legislative provisions.

But the monitor’s request that the council member wait before moving forward with police-accountability bill has potential to impact what legislation is passed because it helps Murray politically, giving him more leverage in his negotiations with the CPC.

“The CPC believes we’re moving too slow and, as you can see from the monitor’s letter, some parties to the consent decree believe we’re moving too fast, and we’ve been trying to manage that,” the mayor said in an interview Wednesday. “It was very helpful for the monitor to say publicly what we’ve been hearing privately for some time.”

“My obligation is to the U.S. Department of Justice and the federal court and if I have to part ways with the CPC on some issues to agree with the Justice Department and the court then that’s what will happen,” Murray added.

Daugaard said Bobb’s concerns about the legislation potentially clashing with the consent decree are unfounded.

“Our understanding is that the monitor will be apprised of our conversations (with the city) in the next several days and we certainly hope that will be sufficient to assure the monitor that nothing in this package will undermine the consent decree,” she said.

“This legislation will codify recommendations on accountability reform that the CPC made almost a year ago. The monitor was involved in those discussions and we heard no concerns at that time.”

Whether or not Murray and the CPC reach consensus on a single bill, he expects more fireworks to erupt when the time comes for the council to weigh in, he said.

“The wheels are back on but I suspect the wheels will fall off several more times,” the mayor said. “ I absolutely believe there will be tension between the council and me.”

Bobb’s letter puts Harrell in a delicate spot. The council member, who’s running for re-election, is eager to get new policies on the books. But he can’t ignore the monitor.

“I have a sense of urgency and we will begin working on this immediately,” Harrell said. “But we’ll certainly comply with instruction from the monitor and other parties.”