Council picks panel for police oversight
Three months after Seattle Mayor Greg Nickels convened his panel to examine police accountability, City Council President Nick Licata announced...
Seattle Times staff reporter
Three months after Seattle Mayor Greg Nickels convened his panel to examine police accountability, City Council President Nick Licata announced the council would have a panel, too.
Licata said Friday that a group of seven attorneys and law professors will examine how to implement the recommendations that come out of the mayor's blue-ribbon panel, which is looking at the effectiveness of the city's system of police accountability and the role of the police chief in it.
The council's group of experts, Licata said, is "going to stretch out beyond where the mayor's panel goes."
Nickels' 11-member group, which includes former Gov. Gary Locke and former Mayor Norm Rice, was convened after Police Chief Gil Kerlikowske was criticized in June for exonerating officers accused of misconduct. Licata and Nickels immediately said they intended to have their own advisory groups, but Licata said his took more time because people were on summer vacation.
The public's complaints about police misconduct are investigated by the Office of Professional Accountability (OPA), a civilian-run office within the police department. Recommendations go to the police chief, who makes the final decision on discipline. The office's work also is reviewed by a mayor-appointed auditor and a council-appointed group called the OPA Review Board.
In one case that was criticized this year by the OPA Review Board, the credibility of two officers was questioned because of discrepancies between a video of a drug arrest and their police report.
In a separate incident, the chief exonerated two officers involved in the beating and arrest of a Capitol Hill bar patron, even though the Office of Professional Accountability recommended that they be punished. A sergeant considered responsible for the incident was not disciplined because a 180-day contractual deadline for punishment had expired.
Lynne Wilson, a Seattle attorney who has been involved with the National Coalition on Police Accountability, said she agreed to join the council's group because she's concerned about public trust.
"When some younger African-American guy calls me about a complaint, is he going to trust the system?" Wilson asked. "That's all the questions I have to ask."
The six other members on the council's panel are: Des Moines Municipal Court Judge Veronica Alicea-Galvan; Leo Hamaji, felony division supervisor at the Defender Association; Steve Herbert, University of Washington associate professor of geography and law; Wilson Edward Reed, criminal-justice consultant and author of "The Politics of Community Policing: The Case of Seattle"; University of Washington law professor Eric Schnapper; and Kellye Testy, dean of Seattle University's law school.
Licata said the panel will begin its work this month and bring recommendations to the council by March 1. Its work will be public, he said.
The mayor's group hopes to finish by the end of the year.
Sharon Pian Chan: 206-464-2958 or firstname.lastname@example.org
Copyright © 2007 The Seattle Times Company
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