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Originally published Thursday, February 14, 2013 at 6:38 PM

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Mayor says significant progress made on ‘20/20’ police overhaul

Seattle Mayor Mike McGinn on Thursday morning proudly touted the city’s push to overhaul its Police Department.

Seattle Times staff reporter

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Saying he’s pleased with the progress so far, Seattle Mayor Mike McGinn on Thursday provided an update on the city’s “20/20” policing plan.

Among the changes made over the past several months have been creation of a Force Review Board to review officers’ use of force; expansion of training in how to keep low-level offenses from escalating; and the hiring of a coordinator to oversee the department’s Race and Social Justice Initiative.

The 20/20 plan is aimed at overhauling the Police Department after a Department of Justice investigation found officers had used excessive force and displayed evidence of biased policing. The Police Department is under federal oversight after reaching a settlement with the Department of Justice.

Unveiled last March, the 20/20 plan calls for 20 initiatives over 20 months.

McGinn has touted the plan for change, saying it would address Justice Department concerns while likely staying within the existing police budget.

“I’m pleased where we are at this point,” McGinn said during a news conference at Seattle police headquarters. “We’re working on 20/20, but we’re also working on crime. We started last year with something like 22 murders, and in the last seven months we’re at five.”

Among the highlights cited Thursday by McGinn:

• The city has budgeted for the hiring of 85 new officers this year.

• The department’s new Force Review Board is designed on the model of the Firearms Review Board. It meets weekly to review every use of force involving a police officer and determines whether the use of force was handled correctly.

Capt. Mike Edwards, speaking during Thursday’s news conference, said that an assistant chief, a lieutenant or sergeant and other officers will be part of the review process. The department also has a Force Investigation Team to respond and investigate at the scene of a use-of-force incident.

• The department now has a full-time Race and Social Justice Initiative program coordinator who will help lead all officers through race training titled, ”Race: The Power of an Illusion.” The department will also be working with Seattle University students and staff who studied biased policing practices.

• SPD is working with tribes across Washington, including the Lummi Nation and Tulalip Tribes, to develop specific training for officers on issues affecting Native American populations. The department came under deep scrutiny after now-resigned Officer Ian Birk shot and killed John T. Williams, 50, a First Nations woodcarver, in 2010 when Birk saw him walking with his knife. However, there was no mention of the incident as a reason why officers are working with the tribes.

• The department last year launched Tweets by Beat, an interactive 911 crime map with real-time updates.

McGinn has said that the 20/20 plan represents a broad effort that goes beyond the changes sought by federal attorneys.”

“We are about halfway through our timeline for reforming the Seattle Police Department in 20 months and significant progress has been made,” McGinn said.

Jennifer Sullivan: 206-464-8294 or jensullivan@seattletimes.com. On Twitter @SeattleSullivan.

Information from Seattle Times archives is included in this report.

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