Judge Spearman: auditor
Tensions between police and local communities have eased since a series of accountability measures were instituted last fall. Mayor Greg Nickels' appointment of former King County Superior Court Judge Michael Spearman as auditor of the Office of Professional Accountability is another step in the right direction.
FORMER King County Superior Court Judge Michael Spearman is an exceptional choice for auditor of the Office of Professional Accountability.
Spearman is a respected jurist with the right résumé to oversee the office that receives and investigates citizen allegations of police misconduct. He would replace former U.S. Attorney Kate Pflaumer, who served ably for two three-year terms.
Tensions in Seattle between law enforcement and local communities have eased in recent years. Strict accountability and no small measure of mutual trust comes from an expanded citizens review board and a hands-on auditor's office.
The challenge of police accountability has always been creating a system trusted by citizens and department rank-and-file. Some cities, for example, Washington, D.C., have civilians overseeing the police, a conflict-laden option. At the other end of the spectrum, leaving police to investigate themselves sows community distrust.
Seattle deserves credit for creating a workable hybrid.
The system isn't perfect. It allows some cases against an officer to go to a supervisor rather than a full-scale internal review. For minor cases, this is an efficient way to address police behavior. The auditor must monitor these cases to ensure more serious cases aren't getting swept under the rug.
Another area of concern: Taser use is on the rise. It is unclear whether this presents a problem or merely appropriate use. More robust monitoring of a relatively recent tool is in order.
Spearman is the right choice to address these challenges and maintain the sharp scrutiny of the auditor's office.
Spearman will appear Tuesday before the Seattle City Council's public safety committee. Full council vote on Spearman's confirmation is set for May 26.
Copyright © 2009 The Seattle Times Company
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