Story Summary

Seattle Police Dept. agrees to reforms after DOJ forces issue

In the wake of high-profile incidents of alleged police brutality, the Department of Justice announced March 31, 2011, it was launching a formal civil rights investigation into SPD practices.  It later found the department had engaged in excessive use of force and ordered changes.  Under a court-approved consent agreement with the DOJ, the police department agreed to implement reforms.

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SEATTLE — Merrick Bobb is the man in charge of making sure there is compliance, at all levels of the Seattle Police Department, with reforms in the Department of Justice settlement agreement.

bobb“The settlement agreement is there and it’s not going to go anywhere and obstacles will not be tolerated,” SPD monitor Bobb said.

He minced no words while delivering his report to the Seattle City Council’s Public Safety, Civil Rights, and Technology Committee.

Saying there is still some infighting among the command staff over past promotions.

Bobb believes interim Chief Jim Pugel will be able to put that behind and lead the department during a difficult time.

But Bobb also said there are marks of progress, Including the Community Police Commission or CPC.

A partnership between the SPD, its officers, community members, and public officials to help develop reforms, establish priorities, and promote community confidence in the SPD.

“The CPC is there.  It has very good leadership… bringing the community’s voice to bear upon the development of policy.  I think it’s a very promising thing that has happened,” Bobb said

The CPC will soon give input on draft policies on the use of force, stops and detentions, discriminatory policing.

Bobb says that will help determine whether unconstitutional policing, the extent it exists, is getting better.

Seattle Human Rights Commission Chairman Chris Stern likes what he heard but says there is difficult work ahead.

“In terms of the big challenges, it’s going to be to get the police to buy into that.  It’s going to be getting the police union to buy into that,” Seattle Human Rights Commission Chairman Chris stern said.

Stern calls the commission almost the backbone of reform.

At the table, councilmembers Bruce Harrell and Tim burgess, two men who could be the next mayor of Seattle.

Each has his own view of what the report said and the challenges that lie ahead.

“We’ve got a long way to go and I’m very confident that the officers who work the street, the detectives, and the civilians in this department are going to rise to the occasion.  They want to do their jobs very well,” Councilmember Tim Burgess said.

“Here we are we’re going to spend millions of dollars toward this settlement agreement and not achieve the most important this which is for us to learn as a city so I’m very disappointed in that and that’s one of the challenges with the settlement agreement to begin with,” Councilmember Bruce Harrell said.

Local News

Federal monitor delivers report on SPD reforms

MerrickBobbPhotoSEATTLE — SPD federal monitor Merrick Bobb: “SPD is making reasonable progress on reforms in settlement agreement.”
Bobb’s comments made during his first  semi-annual report to the Public Safety, Civil Rights & Technology Committee.
Details coming up on Q13 FOX News, online, on the air, on twitter and on Facebook.

SEATTLE — Mayor Mike McGinn announced Monday a big change to how new police officers will be recruited and hired.  McGinn says that removing barriers to hiring will likely increase the number of minorities on the force.

spd“We need to make the most of each new hire to make sure we have the type of police force that we want to see,” McGinn said.

When the U.S. Department of Justice issued its scathing report about the Seattle Police Department a few years ago, the finding was not just that the department used excessive force too often, but that the excessive force was almost always used against minorities.

Today’s push to increase diversity in SPD is an effort build a better relationship with communities of color and hopefully stop the problems we’ve seen, many of which result from mistrust.

“Nothing beats trust and communication like having someone who actually grew up in the community,” McGinn said.

Mayor McGinn says the SPD will immediately begin heavy recruitment in minority neighborhoods with new criteria, including:  no more bans on visible tattoos; allowance of past marijuana use as long as it’s at least a year old; and greater leeway for past run-ins with the law, including  most misdemeanors and even DUIs.

“We want to make sure that we don’t weed them out due to a minor incident in the past or a technicality or too strict of standards,” McGinn said.  “The positive benefits we get from that direct relationship is huge.”

Officials say the current policies have disproportionately worked against minorities and even caused them to avoid applying for the SPD in the first place.  “People would look at this long list of criteria and say, oh I’ll never do this.  They’ll never take me,” said Deputy Chief Dick Reed.  “I want to say, no, I want people to apply.  I want people to be honest and straightforward and tell us your history.”

Reed said SPD will now look at past behavior on a case by case basis.  “We want to look at those offenses as a measure of who they are now, not what they were, what kind of person they were when those things happened,” Reed said.

Both Minorities leaders and officers today applauded the Mayor and Department for taking the step.  “Obviously the City and the Seattle Police Department have listened to the community concerns and they have responded,” said Tony Benjamin of the Atlantic Street Center.

Officer Adrian Diaz also welcomes the change.  “It’s exciting to see that I’ll be working with a very big group of diverse officers on our side in the next couple years,” he said.

The City is expecting to hire over 300 new officers in the next 5 years.

Local News

Inheriting SPD troubles

 Seattle’s new nominee for investigator into police misconduct was announced on the same day the first report was released updating the city on where important reforms are in the Seattle Police Department.

  Pierce Murphy, chosen by Mayor Mike McGinn to be the director of the Office of Professional Accountability is no stranger to the job. Murphy has done the same job in Boise, Idaho for the past 15 years, hearing complaints from the public, and investigating accusations against police.

opaMurphy vowed to be objective and fair.

“When push comes to shove and I’ve weighed all the factors, I’m perfectly comfortable making a decision even knowing that somebody won’t be happy,” said Murphy. “And in some cases, nobody will be happy.”

  He has his work cut out for him.

 Murphy comes to Seattle at a time when police are being told to reform — after the department of justice found a pattern of excessive force.

  The court-appointed monitor, Merrick Bobb released his first report on Friday.

Bobb praised Acting Chief Jim Pugel for his work to enact reforms, but he criticized much of the department for being resistant to change.

“In-fighting up and down the command staff level has been a concern,” wrote Bobb. “the SPD does not appear settled on a unified vision of what it is to become.”

When asked about that, Pugel said, “ I personally have not been aware of any in-fighting of our command staff.”

Pugel also said it is incumbent for leaders in the department to encourage officers to follow the monitoring plan.

Rich O’Neill, president of Seattle’s police union, said if there is resistance to change it’s because many officers still don’t agree with the federal investigation that found police used excessive force 20 percent of the time.

 The acting chief said they need to get over it.

“The evidence that was there or wasn’t there, it doesn’t matter, the trial is over, the settlement is here,” said Pugel. “We have to work with the settlement and it will lead to constitutional policing.”

Local News

Read the SPD monitor’s first report on police reforms

seattle policeSeattle First Semiannual Report Final


Too much infighting among Seattle cops, reform monitor says

The monitor overseeing sweeping reforms in the Seattle Police Department says in his first report that there is still a lot of resistance to change and that reforms on excessive force have “only just begun.”

The report by Merrick Bobb, praises interim police chief Jim Pugel in his work to implement reforms but says the department hads a long way to go.

Bobb writes, “in-fighting up and down the command staff level has been aseattle_police[1] concern. The SPD does not appear settled on a unified vision of what it is to become.”

Bobb also says some of SPD’s technology used for record keeping and data storage is “in need of profound overhaul and rethinking.”

“Failure to correct these problems will substancially, if not fatally prevent the SPD from reaching full and effective compliance.”

Local News

SPD to get new overseer

Seattle Mayor Mike McGinn is holding a press conference this afternoon to update the search for director of the Office of Professional Accountability, which handles investigations into police misconduct.

It’s an important job at a time when  the U.S. Department of Justice is requiring the department to reform after finding a pattern of excessive force used.

Kathryn Olsen held the OPA job for 5 years, but recently stepped down.

More to come.


SEATTLE –Jim Pugel was named interim chief to replace the retiring John Diaz on Monday.

Pugel is a 30-year veteran of the Seattle Police Department who most recently was head of the criminal investigations unit.

Pugel’s position on the command staff makes him an expert on the department, but also means that he comes with the baggage of having been a leader during an especially difficult time for the SPD, including the investigation by the Department of Justice and a blistering report about the department’s handling of last year’s May Day protests.

When asked if he was “a reformer,” Pugel neither embraced or rejected the label.

“I may have some reform initiatives,” he said.  “Everyone evolves in their jobs, picks up the good things to do, discards the wrong things to do, and always is listening to the community.”

Pugel steps into the position just a few weeks after the city and the DOJ agreed on monitoring plan as a blueprint for beginning the process of change at the SPD. Does he believe there is a culture problem in the police department?

“I don’t believe there is,” Pugel said.

Pugel said the lesson from the DOJ investigation is that systems weren’t in place to properly report use of force or to oversee patrol officers.

“That’s where we fell down,” he said. “We had very disparate ways on how we investigated use of force based on who the sergeant was, what precinct it was, and certainly sometimes the time or day or night.”

Though he won’t be taking official control for over a month, Pugel will help oversee this year’s May Day rally. A recent report slammed the department for its handling of last year’s event.  Pugel admitted that there were conflicting messages given to officers about how to deal with the violent rioters. He also attributed the problem to being “under the eye” of the Justice Department, which a year ago was pushing the city to sign a settlement agreement.

“There was some reticence to go into the crowd and get the few ringleaders, the few violent people who were just making the rest of the peaceful people look terrible,” Pugel said.

Pugel doesn’t yet know if he will apply for the position of permanent chief, something he did four years ago when John Diaz was chosen.

“The mayor has made very clear, while I am here he does not want a placeholder,” he said.

SEATTLE — There are some big changes coming to the Seattle Police Department.

“I feel incredibly lucky to have been able to be part of this organization for 33 years,” Police Chief John Diaz said Monday as he announced he will retire sometime in April.

“I wasn’t going to leave until we had that reform issue up and running and in place that monitoring plan is in place; we’ve restructured the department so we can get that running as smoothly and quickly as possible,” Diaz said.


From left, Seattle Mayor Mike McGinn, Police Chief John Diaz and Assistant Chief Jim Pugel attending Monday’s news conference.

Diaz’s time as chief has been difficult from the beginning. There were several high-profile allegations of excessive use of force, many of which were caught on tape. They split the community, and caused a lot of citizens to lose faith in the department.

They also led to a U.S. Department of Justice investigation and calls for reforms to combat excessive force.

Then, last week the results of an independent investigation into last year’s May Day riots found the department was ill-prepared for the violence and lacked good command and communication with its officers on the street. Diaz admitted the fault was with the command.

“I won’t say every decision I’ve made was right. What I will say is that I tried to make every decision based on what I believed was right, and I leave pretty proud of my career here,” Diaz said.

And there were some bright spots and successes during his tenure, including better response times, crisis-intervention training, and implementation of the neighborhood policing plan.

“Major crime is down 10% since he took control of the department and it is now at a 55-year low,” Mayor Mike McGinn said.

Assistant Chief Jim Pugel will take the helm as interim chief while a search is launched for a new police chief.

“He came up through the ranks,” Seattle Police Officers’ Guild President Rich O’Neill said of Pugel. “He has walked the beats, he has a very diverse career and he has distinguished himself as a member of the department; he is more than capable of handling the job” of police chief.

O’Neill said Pugel is the kind of leader rank-and-file officers want and need.

“They’re looking for stability, to have someone who leads the department in a way to get these reforms done as quickly as possible, so the department can move forward and out of this period of time where it seems like bad news after bad news,” O’Neill said.

“I promise to continue to work with all the groups, with the media, with everyone who has an interest in seeing Seattle an even better, an even safer city,” Pugel said.

Pugel is a University of Washington graduate. He began his career at SPD as a volunteer reserve officer in 1981. He was hired as a full-time officer in 1983 and was assigned to the SWAT team in 1986. He was promoted to sergeant in 1990, to lieutenant in 1994, captain in 1999 and then became assistant chief in 2000.