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Originally published Friday, May 11, 2012 at 3:34 PM

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Failure to monitor Seattle police reforms has its own price

Seattle Mayor Mike McGinn is not saving the city any money by failing to embrace outside review and oversight of Seattle Police Department reforms sought by the Department of Justice.

Seattle Times Editorial

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Unfortunately for all of us, the SPD does not have the ability to reform itself. If it... MORE
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IF Seattle Mayor Mike McGinn is opposed to the use of a court-ordered monitor to oversee remedial changes in the Seattle Police Department, he has failed miserably to explain why.

McGinn suggests the price tag might be too high, but then he admits he pulled the number — $5 million — out of ... someplace. He cannot even assign a dollar figure to SPD's own mushy plan.

All of this mayoral hand wringing points toward a meeting Wednesday with Department of Justice officials to negotiate a template for dealing with federal concerns about SPD's use of force and troubling symptoms of biased policing.

McGinn invokes municipal budget woes, and the DOJ is in our community trying to get a serious and sustained response to the disturbing departmental profile it delivered in December.

Seattle suffered a series of troubling, even shocking, incidents. They raised fundamental questions about police management, supervision, training and attitudes. Acting to deal with those concerns is hardly a waste of money.

Besides, lawsuits and settlements that result from such behavior, and the prospect of a nasty court fight with the DOJ, all come with a price tag. Seattleites want a police force fully trained to protect itself and others, and to respect the law. For the most part that is very much what the community has, but the department has trouble spots.

SPD's response to the federal report was "SPD 20/20: A Vision for the Future." Get it, 20-20, vision? The contents are about as clever. There is a pledge to continue a Force Review Board; which did not exist before the feds made noise. A commitment to eliminate the "us/them" mentality in the department. Interesting. Lots of sensitivity training, although it is noted such classes have been in place since the 1990s.

The DOJ goes to the heart of the matter: more training and oversight of line supervisors, independence for the department's civilian auditor, and more departmental attention to internal affairs and complaint review.

Independent monitoring of these reforms is basic. The mayor has not made a coherent case for a different approach.

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