The city on Wednesday submitted its counterproposal to the list of reforms proposed by the U.S. Department of Justice, which had found Seattle police routinely use excessive force.
Seattle officials on Wednesday delivered their response to proposed federal remedies to curtail excessive force in the Police Department, setting the stage for delicate talks that could lead to a settlement, or a prolonged lawsuit if the city’s efforts are deemed by federal civil-rights lawyers to be inadequate.
Mayor Mike McGinn’s spokesman Aaron Pickus confirmed that the response “has been shared” with the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ).
The city’s counterproposal was not made public, in keeping with a confidentiality agreement between the two sides.
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It is unclear when negotiations would begin on an agreement, which U.S. Attorney Jenny Durkan has said must take the form of a court-enforced consent decree, with a monitor, to ensure needed changes take hold.
McGinn has expressed his willingness to accept a consent decree, as long as the conditions are acceptable.
One possibility is that the Justice Department might look at the city’s counterproposal, decide it does not show good faith and file suit without further talks, according to one source familiar with the matter.
The source described the counterproposal as “limited.”
Pickus, in a response Wednesday, said in a statement, “We shared our response with the Department of Justice today. It included a consent decree and a monitor. Our hope is to continue to work in good faith toward a mutually acceptable agreement that supports a just and effective police force.”
City officials had been given a Wednesday deadline to present their response, according to sources.
Even before the city response was delivered, the Police Department objected to the Justice Department’s proposed reforms as wildly unrealistic and expensive, according to documents reviewed by The Associated Press.
Federal attorneys presented the city with their confidential proposal in late March, after an investigation concluded that Seattle police officers routinely use excessive force. The report also found inconclusive but disturbing evidence of biased policing.
The Associated Press reviewed a copy of the proposal Tuesday, reporting the DOJ wants the city, among other things, to change policies, add to training for officers and hire more sergeants to supervise patrol officers. The city must also agree to the appointment of an outside monitor, at city expense.
In a radio interview Monday, McGinn said the reforms could cost up to $41 million a year, a figure the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Seattle called “simply wrong.” It has not been determined how long a consent decree might last.
McGinn also cited concerns about the role of the monitor, saying that official could become a “shadow mayor” who could hamper the city’s ability to quickly respond to urgent police matters.
Already, the city has launched what it calls a “20/20” plan, which would implement 20 reforms in 20 months, to improve policing and address the issues uncovered by the DOJ investigation.
Durkan has praised “20/20” for providing a framework for reform, but says the city’s response needed to include specific details, deadlines and metrics with which to measure progress. The alternative, she said, is that her office will file a lawsuit against the city and seek to force the changes.
Sources have said a deadline for an agreement is at the end of the month and that a suit could be filed by early June.
Information from Seattle Times archives is included in this story.
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