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Sunday, August 26, 2012 - Page updated at 11:30 p.m.
Seattle Mayor McGinn needs to move on police-oversight panel
A settlement between the Department of Justice and the city of Seattle calls for a Community Police Commission to review reports on changes that are supposed to be made in the Seattle Police Department on the use of force and discriminatory policing.
This group of citizens would be set up by the city and would make recommendations on police issues, including the work of the Office of Professional Accountability and the role of its director. The OPA now oversees the investigation of complaints against officers and recommends discipline to the police chief.
But the way the OPA has been handled recently raises doubts about how promptly a new commission would be formed and how seriously the administration of Mayor Mike McGinn takes citizen oversight of the police force.
The term of the last appointed head of the OPA, Kathryn Olson, expired in May 2010. She has not been reappointed to another three-year term and no replacement has been offered by McGinn. Olson has continued the $157,000 a year job without the required confirmation from the Seattle City Council.
This kind of limbo undermines public confidence that McGinn is taking seriously the need to address the Justice Department's findings. The probe found that Seattle police have been too quick to use force and that biased policing against minorities may have taken place.
McGinn may have been justified in holding up any decision on the OPA director since the Justice Department issued its report in December and as the city and the department worked out a settlement on how to address issues.
But this is a loose end that should have been tied up in May 2010 or shortly thereafter. It should never have been in the mix of issues the city and police will be addressing under the Justice Department settlement.
If there is to be serious citizen oversight of the police department, then the McGinn administration needs to do the work to make that happen -- in a more timely fashion this time.
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