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Originally published Tuesday, May 7, 2013 at 8:40 PM

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SPD reforms need interim chief’s full backing, monitor says

In an appearance before the Seattle City Council, Merrick Bobb said interim Police Chief Jim Pugel needs to dispel “scary stories” about federally mandated changes.

Seattle Times staff reporter

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Interim Seattle Police Chief Jim Pugel needs to address concerns in the department about federally mandated reforms and make clear that the settlement agreement to enforce them is “not going to go away,” the independent monitor tracking the changes told the City Council on Tuesday.

In a briefing on his first official report, which he issued April 26, Merrick Bobb said the absence of an explanation from the top has spawned “urban myths” and “scary stories” within the department regarding the scope of the agreement.

Bobb, the founder of a Los Angeles-based police-accountability center, said he believes that Pugel, who last month was appointed interim chief to replace outgoing Police Chief John Diaz, is committed to educating the department and allaying anxiety about the agreement, which calls for measures to address excessive force and discriminatory policing.

Shortly after his appointment, Pugel said the department needed to put the turmoil behind it and move forward with the reforms.

Bobb, who was appointed as monitor last year after the city and Department of Justice reached the agreement in July, appeared Tuesday afternoon before the council’s public-safety committee.

During his presentation, he reiterated the key findings of his report: that progress is being made but that resistance in the ranks remains a hurdle.

When Councilmember Bruce Harrell, chair of the committee, asked what could be done if the rank-and-file never fully accepted the reforms, Bobb said he believed that officers could be shown how the agreement will benefit them.

Specifically, Bobb said, the measures will enhance the safety of officers, help exonerate them in most cases through the use of tools such as video and improve the level of supervision they get by adding more sergeants who can teach them standards and provide advice on handling difficult situations.

Bobb also told the council that the department needs to make significant improvements in data collection and retrieval in order to manage the conduct of officers.

Although it will be costly, he said, the upgrade is critical to the success of the agreement.

Bobb also told the council that it is his belief that the court-supervised agreement “trumps” collective-bargaining provisions when the two are in conflict.

Steve Miletich: 206-464-3302 or smiletich@seattletimes.com

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