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Originally published July 16, 2013 at 6:24 PM | Page modified July 16, 2013 at 8:19 PM

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‘Hard-stripe’ sergeant hires meet SPD reform milestone

The mayor touts 11 new sergeants and a “milestone” in the 20/20 reform plan for the Seattle Police Department and says the SPD is looking into starting its own basic-training academy.

Seattle Times staff reporter

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Mayor Mike McGinn surrounded himself with newly minted Seattle police sergeants Tuesday afternoon and announced the department has met a reform milestone with the creation of new internal academies to train its supervisors.

The mayor also announced that Interim Chief Jim Pugel will undertake a feasibility study to determine whether the Seattle Police Department (SPD) wants to withdraw from the state academy and open a basic training academy of its own.

Currently, almost all police recruits in Washington attend an academy operated by the Washington State Criminal Justice Training Commission. The Washington State Patrol runs its own academy.

McGinn and Pugel introduced 11 new “hard-stripe” sergeants, replacing acting sergeants and responding to the conclusion by the Department of Justice (DOJ) that the department’s failure to properly supervise its officers is a core cause of the SPD’s problems with illegal use of force.

Those new sergeants will also make up the first class of a new “Sergeants Academy,” with an 80-hour leadership curriculum, which McGinn said eventually will be attended by every sergeant on the force.

Likewise, command supervisors — lieutenants, captains and chiefs — will be sent to an academy with classes ranging from command expectations to public speaking and the history of Seattle.

McGinn said the new academies were a “new milestone” toward achieving the city’s plan, announced in March 2012, of achieving 20 major reforms in the Police Department in 20 months.

“This new training program will ensure that all of our sergeants and commanders are up to date on new procedures, and have the leadership skills they need to enforce those guidelines.”

The DOJ, in its investigation into the Seattle Police Department, concluded that its “failure to provide adequate supervision” to its officers was a key contributing factor to its conclusion that SPD officers routinely use unconstitutional levels of force during arrests.

“The failure to supervise patrol officers’ use of force has occurred at every level, from the first-line supervisors to the chain of command ... to the final review of command staff,” the DOJ wrote in its December 2011 findings.

The DOJ was particularly critical of the SPD’s routine use of “acting sergeants,” where rank-and-file officers were temporarily promoted to act as supervisors of their immediate colleagues.

The federal court-enforced settlement agreement between the city and the DOJ, reached the following July, called for an “adequate number of qualified field/first-line supervisors (typically sergeants) to assure that the provisions of this agreement are implemented.”

“Sergeant training is central to effective first-line supervision,” the agreement says.

Merrick Bobb, the court-appointed monitor overseeing the implementation of the settlement agreement, stated in his first-year monitoring plan that ensuring that sergeants “hold rank-and-file accountable for constitutional, unbiased policing” — and are in turn supervised by lieutenants and captains — were “core requirements.”

Mike Carter: mcarter@seattletimes.com or 206-464-3706.

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