Seattle’s Community Police Commission unanimously voted Wednesday to submit a reform package to the City Council for legislative consideration after failing to reach an agreement with Mayor Ed Murray on key issues.
Seattle’s citizen-police commission unanimously voted Wednesday to submit a reform package to the City Council for legislative consideration after failing to reach agreement with Mayor Ed Murray on key issues.
Murray and the Community Police Commission (CPC) have been negotiating the police-accountability package for months, spurred by the backlash when Murray’s then-interim police chief, Harry Bailey, overturned misconduct findings against seven officers last year.
While the two sides have agreed on a host of reforms, including measures regarding the overturning of discipline, they have been unable to reach consensus on broader issues.
The stalemate delayed Murray’s original plan, announced in November, to submit legislation to the council early this year.
Most Read Local Stories
- Inslee: Washington state to lift COVID restrictions by June 30; right now, mask rules eased for vaccinated people
- Washington state diesel truck shop accused of tampering with hundreds of pickups to thwart emission controls
- Gov. Inslee, Washington state's U.S. senators reject GOP congressman's pitch on Lower Snake River dam removal
- Coronavirus daily news updates, May 14: What to know today about COVID-19 in the Seattle area, Washington state and the world
- Sixth Washington state man charged in U.S. Capitol breach case
“I think it’s really good we’ve moved this on,” said the Rev. Harriett Walden, co-chair of the commission, which wants the package considered by the current council before November’s election and before the council becomes focused on the budget beginning in September.
Murray issued a statement later in the day, expressing his and Police Chief Kathleen O’Toole’s surprise at the CPC action because they believed there was an opportunity to reach a deal.
“Reform requires a lot of input from many stakeholders,” Murray said. “We’ve been focused on a consensus- oriented approach. There was substantial agreement on a deal, and now that the CPC has decided to introduce its own legislative package, we look forward to the council’s deliberations on reaching our shared goal of achieving meaningful police reform.”
Murray did not say if he planned to go forward with his own legislation or simply lobby the council.
The 15-member commission, which currently has three vacancies, voted 7-0 to immediately submit its package to the City Council’s public-safety committee, which can choose how to craft any potential legislation. Some commission members were not present and one voiced her support before leaving early from the meeting.
The commission was created as part of a 2012 consent decree between the city and U.S. Justice Department to curb excessive force by police, as well as biased policing, under the terms of a federal court order.
The CPC, whose members are mayoral appointees subject to confirmation by the council, was tasked with making recommendations on the reform process and serving as a liaison between the community and the police. It is seeking to be made a permanent body.
A key sticking point between the mayor and CPC is Murray’s opposition to a commission proposal that would require the City Council’s concurrence before the mayor could fire the director of the police department’s Office of Professional Accountability (OPA), which conducts internal investigations, and the auditor who monitors that unit. The CPC would be able to offer its comment before the director and auditor were fired.
Murray views that authority to be an executive function, while the commission considers it to be a way to protect the independence of the two civilian officials and provide that insulation and assurance to new people coming into the job.
Another sticking point is the commission’s push to codify reforms the mayor’s office says have already been implemented, including some that the CPC believes have not been carried out, CPC co-Chair Lisa Daugaard told the commission at Wednesday’s meeting.
Daugaard said the CPC also is seeking broad authority to flag issues in the police department, including those related to public trust.
Anne Levinson, the OPA auditor, told the commission it was crucial to establish the parameters of citizen oversight for the day when federal court supervision is lifted, something not in the mayor’s potential legislation.
“It’s a pretty significant philosophical difference,” Levinson said.
Daugaard said the commission’s position has not shifted in the year since it submitted its proposals to Murray.
“What we need is action,” she said.
Commission member David Keenan, while voting to seek immediate council consideration, said the CPC should not rule out further discussions with the mayor’s office to reach compromise or consensus.
Murray, in his statement, noted that at the beginning of his administration in 2014, he set the “ambitious goal” of making the police department a national model for urban policing.
“It has been our priority to rebuild the trust between the public and our police so that everyone in our neighborhoods feels safe and receives the same high level of police service,” he said.
“Working with our partners in the Community Police Commission, the department has made significant progress,” Murray added. “We’ve hired a new police chief, improved SPD training techniques and ensured that all officers are trained in de-escalation and crisis intervention.”