Seattle and feds strike a deal on police reform

Jul 27, 2012

The city of Seattle and the U.S. Department of Justice have struck a deal on how to reform Seattle’s police department. The agreement heads off a threatened civil rights lawsuit against the city.

The plan lays out a long list of changes to policy, practices and training – mostly aimed at curbing what federal officials have called a pattern of excessive use of force. U.S. Attorney Jenny Durkan said officers will have to begin reporting every incident where force is used into a database.

“There will be a much more robust system for capturing every use of force – whether it’s a minimal use of force, or a serious use of force. So I would say I think that’s probably one of the most significant changes,” Durkan said.

The changes will be overseen by an independent monitor meant to keep the parties honest, and a new community policing commission will be charged with being the eyes, ears and voice of the citizens.

The agreement comes after months of sometimes bitter disagreement between city and federal officials. Mayor Mike McGinn said the final product doesn’t look much like what either side came to the table with at first.

“And the fact that its neither of those two initial proposals, but something different, reflects the creativity, the hard work the dialog and the constructive work that was done by the parties to reach an agreement,” McGinn said.

McGinn and others credited face-to-face meetings and the intervention of a mediator with getting negotiations moving. The cost of the measures remains a question mark. McGinn said they’re been figuring on $5 million in the next budget, but cautions that’s a very rough estimate.