Murray: OPA Independence "Not a No-Brainer"
Mayor Ed Murray explains why he wants to take police oversight out of the police department, and the challenges that presents.
In his speech last week outlining his plans for a so-called "Summer of Safety," Mayor Ed Murray mentioned that he planned to turn the Office of Professional Accountability, currently overseen by the Seattle Police Department, into an independent entity charged with civilian oversight of SPD—a proposal that would require city council authorization.
We gave Mayor Murray a PubliCola Like for the evident, but seemingly elusive, no-brainer of recommending that the office tasked with reviewing public complaints against the SPD shouldn't housed in and managed by the SPD.
We have a call out to city council public safety committee chair Bruce Harrell for his thoughts on Murray's proposal. Here's what Murray had to say about unshackling OPA from SPD on Friday.
OPA has oversight over reviewing actions by the police, and for them to be a truly honest broker, both to the public and the police department, independence is important. And I think the public’s trust will rise when the public sees that OPA is a separate entity from the police department itself, particularly when we have incidents involving use of force. ... That has to be something that is clear to the public. ...
It’s not a no-brainer, because it’s still unusual for American police departments [to have an independent oversight office]. I think what happened here is that the whole complaint, appeals, and discipline process became the tail wagging the police reform dog. And police reform has become the tail wagging the public safety dog.
Last week, the city council confirmedMurray's choice for police chief, former Boston police commissioner Kathleen O'Toole, who said she would focus front-line officers' efforts on "prevention and intervention" over "enforcement" as SPD's top cop.