Waiting for Seattle to live up to New Orleans on police reforms
The city of New Orleans announced a major overhaul of its police department called for by the Department of Justice on Tuesday.
After months of negotiations with the DOJ, the New Orleans police department agreed to reform policies for use of force, arrests, search and arrests, interrogations, photo lineups and more.
In Seattle, Mayor Mike McGinn and the Department of Justice are headed toward a showdown at the O.K. Corral, which will probably result in a civil-rights lawsuit. Much spaghetti was spilled when City Attorney Pete Holmes rebuked the mayor in a letter, as reported by Steve Miletich and Mike Carter on the news side.
New Orleans agreed to a 122-page consent decree after Mayor Mitch Landrieu invited the Justice Department to clean up the police department. That investigation started in 2010. Seattle's DOJ investigation was initiated by the feds after community groups asked for it.
In New Orleans the Justice Department found routine use of excessive force in stops, searches and arrests. It also found evidence of discrimination based on race. Here are the conclusions the department reached in Seattle's investigation: The Seattle police department routinely used excessive force, and there was strong, but inconclusive, evidence of discriminatory policing.
New Orleans has agreed to have a federal court oversee implementation of reforms, as well as an outside monitor jointly selected by the city and the feds. Seattle does not want an outside monitor.
Here is an opinion column by Stephanie Grace at the New Orleans Times-Picayune, who wrote, "This consent decree, a 492-point outline of steps the department is required to take to heal all manner of ills, really is that big a deal, for the city and for (Mayor Mitch) Landrieu."
Here is what I've written about Seattle's inability to reach an agreement with the Justice Department: "This is an open sore on our city. The longer city officials continue to argue with the federal demand for reforms, the more it festers. The more the city delays on installing an outside monitor, the more the work of the whole department is tarnished by the transgressions of a few officers."
Seattle has gone head to head with the New Orleans on the football field, and won. I am waiting for our city to go into Beast Mode and bust through its intransigence with the Department of Justice. Otherwise, we're losing a game with even more at stake.
Achenblog by Joel Achenbach
Postman On Politics