Strange Reaction to McGinn's Police Panel Picks

By Erica C. Barnett December 30, 2009


Mayor-Elect Mike McGinn announced the list of folks who will make recommendations on the appointment of a new police chief yesterday. The group will meet for the first time on January 13, and is expected to make a recommendation by May.

I wasn't terribly interested in the panel myself (which looks, on first glance, like a safe mix of civic activists, neighborhood folks, business interests, and public-safety advocates) until I saw this tweet by P-I columnist Joel Connelly (the same Joel Connelly, by the way, who called a proposal by People's Waterfront Coalition founder Cary Moon to keep SDOT chief Grace Crunican a "lunatic" idea):
Why ideologues, under performers and civic gadflies on McGinn panel with serious job of screening candidates for police chief? *

Connelly's hardly alone in his assessment. Judging from the comments on other sites that posted stories about McGinn's announcement,  there seems to be consensus on a few points: 1) The number of people on the panel shows that McGinn is pandering to every constituency (making Nickels, in the words of one P-I commenter, "look efficient by comparison"); 2) the list is too "politically correct" and ideological; and 3) Nickels would have done it better.

The only problem? McGinn's list is, with four exceptions, identical to the one Nickels announced in September. Far be it from me to come out in favor of endless process and appointment-by-committee, but given that McGinn is actually being consistent—way back in October, McGinn signed off on Nickels' committee and said he thought it should keep working on the appointment—it's a little weird to see people trashing him now for doing exactly what he said he would do.

Oh, and those new members? They are: Seattle Storm co-owner Anne Levinson, who most recently headed up the committee that recommended candidates to replace Dow Constantine on the King County Council; Jenna Walden, a Southeast Seattle neighborhood activist and member of the Southeast Seattle Crime Prevention Coalition; Bruce Harrell, a member of the Seattle City Council; and Charles Rolland, director of Communities and Parents for Public Schools.

Harrell's appointment raises an obvious question: Why not appoint Tim Burgess, head of the council's public safety committee? (As of next year, Harrell will no longer sit on that committee.) Burgess says he doesn't know why McGinn didn't ask him, but that he wouldn't have taken it if it was offered: The police chief appointment "is going to come through my committee, and I wanted to be able to do that process objectively," Burgess says.

* Contacted by email, Connelly said he was referring to Rolland, who headed up the Democratic party in 1994, when Washington State Dems suffered the largest losses in the country.
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