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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Local News

Report critical of reform efforts by Seattle Police

imgresSEATTLE — The federal monitor overseeing Seattle Police reforms has some harsh comments for SPD’s ability to change the culture inside police ranks.

A settle agreement was reached between the Department of Justice and Seattle in 2012, after a federal report found Seattle Police engaged in a pattern of unnecessary force.

Merrick Bobb, who is monitoring the reforms, reports, “significant disappointment and frustration across several areas.” One of those areas is officer-involved shootings. Bobb said, “the processes do not guarantee anything close to a thorough, fair, and impartial investigation.”

Bobb is also critical of the in-car camera’s that officers are supposed to use, saying video and audio are often missing from police incidents.

The city has 30 days to comment on the draft before it is presented to a federal judge.

stolen cop carSEATTLE — The mayor and interim police chief announced that the city will soon see 10 more police officers on the street as a result of a $1.25 million federal grant.

Mayor Mike McGinn and Interim Police Chief Jim Pugel welcomed the Department of Justice’s Community Orienting Policing Services (COPS) grant Friday.  The announcement comes on the heels of the addition of 15 new officers allotted for hire in the 2014 budget, and 27 new officers allotted for hire in the 2013 budget.

COPS program hires will be deployed equally into each of the city’s five precincts as part of the department’s Community Police Team (CPT) program. The CPT program focuses resources to long-term and chronic problem areas of the city, McGinn said, and encourages officers to work directly with the community in combating the “root causes of crime.”

The grant mandates that four military veterans be part of the new hire.

McGinn said the grant will help the department make strides toward securing trust from the community. The SPD is currently undergoing DOJ-mandated reform.

“This federal grant will help us continue to put more officers in our neighborhoods and walking beats to protect public safety,” McGinn said.

The Downtown Seattle Association released a statement in support of the grant, saying more officers are indeed needed to stop illegal activity in the area.

“We look forward to seeing the new officers out on the streets of downtown,” the association said in a statement.

McGinn is running for re-election against former state Sen. Ed Murray in November. Murray is currently leading in most polls.

mcginnSEATTLE — In response to the growing frustration and concern over downtown safety, Seattle Mayor Mike McGinn announced Thursday that more than $3.5 million will be allocated to combat the problem. As part of his plan, he wants more help for the mentally ill and drug addicted, who have been the perpetrators of much of the recent violence and disorder.

McGinn called it “a responsible, holistic approach to services and enforcement.” The mayor also called it a “paradigm shift” from how things have been done in the past when it comes to policing the downtown streets.

Some of the money will be spent on new cops to enforce the law, but the biggest change in strategy is a new plan to give drunks, drug addicts and the mentally ill a chance to get help instead of being jailed, where they often serve some time and then end up back on the streets causing the same old problems.

For “low-level, non-violent offenders with substance abuse problems, arrest and incarceration is not the solution for that person,” McGinn said. “Substance abuse treatment issues are.”

Given how controversial downtown public safety has become in this year’s mayor’s race, with downtown businesses especially critical of McGinn for not doing more, today’s announcement was surprising for the broad coalition —  law enforcement, civil rights groups, human service providers, and, yes, the downtown business community – who stood with McGinn to support the effort.

“This is a really good start and I think a good model,” Kate Joncas, president of the Downtown Seattle Association said. “The encouraging thing is now we have a partnership among everybody that needs to be at the table.  If we can stick together we might be able to make continued changes.”

Police Union Endorses Murray

But just a few hours after today’s moment of unity, a very different message about McGinn and public safety was announced. In a big blow to the mayor’s re-election campaign, the Seattle Police Union endorsed his opponent, Sen. Ed Murray.

“Seattle City Government is broken,” Rich O’Neill, president of the Seattle Police Officer’s Guild said. “Many have called it dysfunctional and we need someone with the ability to unite people and bring all the different groups, all the stakeholders together, and to work on the problems that we have.”

O’Neill argues that the city could have avoided having the Department of Justice come in and force police reforms if McGinn had been more focused on public safety.


New SPD ‘use of force’ policies

spd3SEATTLE — The federal monitor overseeing reforms at the Seattle Police Department unveiled new use of force policies. The more restrictive guidelines, he says, are necessary to restore trust and accountability in the police force.

“There is de-escalation, for example, built into these use of force policies,” Merrick Bobb said in his presentation on Wednesday in front of the Seattle City Council Public Safety Meeting.

Excessive force is what got the SPD into the mess it finds itself in and is also the reason why the Department of Justice had to come in to enforce change. It’s the crux of the problem and what everyone is focused on.

Bobb’s report runs 70-pages and is meant to guarantee that in the future force is used only when it’s necessary and only as much as necessary.  Bobb cited “specific provisions that call for de-escalation, call for standing back, call for calling out [crisis intervention team], call for there being an effort to not confront in such a way as to trigger force prematurely.”

Here are some of the new policies:

  • Officers must always issues warnings first
  • They are prohibited  from using force when someone has only verbally confronted them
  • They can never use force to punish or retaliate
  • Deadly force may only be used only when there is a clear threat of death or serious injury to an officer

The president of the Officer’s Union expressed concern about the long list of new requirements.

“Officers are going to have to, you know, conform to this new use of force policy,” Sgt. Rich O’Neill said.  “And some officers — I hope not — but some officers may hesitate and that is a concern of mine. I don’t want to see an officer get hurt because they should have used force and they didn’t, and they didn’t use the force because they didn’t want to have to do this long documentation.”

O’Neill is also worried that that the stricter reporting requirements that come with these new policies is going to chew up a lot of officer time that could be spent out on the street.

City councilmembers seemed upbeat about the new guidelines. “This will be a helpful document to make the police department better,” Bruce Harrell, chair of the Public Safety Committee said.   “Much of it is just common sense and that’s what we’re asking to be applied out there in the field.”

Bobb is expected to submit the guidelines to the federal judge overseeing the DOJ consent decree in the next several weeks.

SEATTLE — Interim Seattle Police Chief Jim Pugel officially took office Monday and didn’t waste any time making changes. His first order of business was to reorganize the command staff, giving him direct communication with the heads of each bureau.

“It is not a demotion or a promotion for anybody,” Pugel said.

The moves level out the ranks. Deputy Chief Nick Metz and Deputy Chief Clark Kimmerer become assistant chiefs along with Mike Sanford, Paul McDonagh and Dick Reed.

“That reflects much more with what large major police departments from around the nation are,” Pugel said. “There’s always a chief and then the second in command is assistant police chief.”

No one gets a pay raise or pay cut.

The organizational moves are part of his plan to create direct lines of communication as he works to implement changes directed by the Department of Justice settlement and Merrick Bob’s monitoring team. Pugel said that team is embedded and that early resistance by officers to the changes is now gone.

“We’ve been working with the monitoring team and the Department of Justice as well as our audit and professional responsibility section under Mike Sanford in crafting new Terry stop policy and procedure, stop and frisk policy procedure and biased policing,” Pugel said.

The Community Police Commission, stipulated by the DOJ settlement ,will have a strong say in what goes into the new policies on those so-called Terry stops, where police detain people briefly on reasonable suspicion of criminal activity.  The goal is to make sure everyone is treated fairly.

With the mayor’s office up for grabs in this fall’s election, no decision will be made on a permanent replacement for the retiring Police Chief John Diaz until November at the earliest but Pugel says he’s focusing on the job at hand but also has the permanent chief’s position in his sights.

“’I think I can bring a new, not necessarily a better angle, but a new angle that will lead us in a positive direction that will support good, honest, ethical police work that will continue to make the city safer and hopefully reduce the harm that we come across on a daily basis,” Pugel said.


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.”