After key meeting, officials say SPD reforms on track
In what was billed as a summit, Seattle Mayor Ed Murray, top federal officials and other leaders met Tuesday to discuss the pace of police reforms. They agreed that significant progress has been made, but said more work is needed.
Seattle Times staff reporter
Seattle Mayor Ed Murray and top federal officials said Tuesday the city is making “significant progress” on police reforms, but that much work lies ahead, particularly on training and improving technology to measure the changes.
Murray, who has made accelerated progress a top priority since taking office last month, convened what was billed as an all-parties summit Tuesday morning to discuss the city’s 18-month effort to address excessive force and biased policing.
The closed-door gathering at Seattle City Hall was attended by Jocelyn Samuels, acting assistant attorney general of the U.S. Justice Department’s civil-rights division in Washington, D.C.
“Constitutional policing and effective policing go hand in hand,” Samuels said during a news conference that followed the meeting.
U.S. Attorney Jenny Durkan, whose Seattle office helped forge a landmark agreement in 2012 that required the city to make changes, said she could not overstate “the importance of this meeting.”
She added that the “building blocks” were in place for reform, although none of the officials said they could predict whether the city would emerge from the agreement ahead of the five-year timetable.
Just last month, the police department adopted sweeping new policies regarding use of force, biased policing and temporary stops of citizens.
Murray announced that the parties had reached a consensus during the meeting for reform plans this year.
Among those attending were Interim Police Chief Harry Bailey, a retired assistant Seattle police chief who Murray named to the job last month; City Attorney Pete Holmes; City Council President Tim Burgess; Councilmember Bruce Harrell, chair of the public-safety committee; and Councilmember Sally Clark.
Much effort will be placed on teaching officers the new policies, the officials said.
“2014 really is the year of training,” Murray said.
He said the city also needs to improve the Police Department’s technology, with the aim of making it easier to collect data and track how reforms are working
He said he was surprised to learn how far “behind the ball” the Police Department is on technology, which he described as having significant financial costs. He said he was working with a Justice Department office on obtaining federal grants to pay for the costs of reforms.
Also attending the summit was Merrick Bobb, the court-appointed monitor overseeing police reforms on behalf of U.S. District Judge James Robart in Seattle.
It was Bobb’s highly critical progress report late last year on the pace of reform that prompted Murray to push for what he has described as faster and long-lasting change.
Durkan, in her remarks, emphasized the changes are “not a box-checking exercise.”
Rather, reform is directed at a cultural shift that everyone wants to get done quickly but right, she said.
Durkan said there was “no conflict” between the terms of the reforms and effective and safe policing.
Samuels, the Justice Department official, echoed those comments, saying officers will be safer and more effective when rights are respected, force is properly used and discriminatory policing is avoided.
She said the Community Police Commission, a citizen-advisory panel formed as part of the settlement agreement, would play a key role in shaping reforms.
Steve Miletich: 206-464-3302 or firstname.lastname@example.org On Twitter @stevemiletich.