Councilmembers Send Letter To Mayor, SPD Pushing Overhaul Of Accountability System

By Jonah Spangenthal-Lee February 25, 2011

Councilmembers Tim Burgees, Sally Bagshaw, and Sally Clark—the three members of the council's public safety committee—sent a letter to Mayor McGinn and SPD Union leadership this afternoon, offering up hefty list of nearly a dozen tangible, reaonable recommendations for overhauling the Seattle Police Department's accountability system.

In the letter, the councilmembers suggest SPD:


  • Create an on-call incident response team comprised of Seattle and King County detectives, as well as staff from the King County Prosecutor's office, to investigate all incidents of use of deadly force by officers. The letter also includes a recommendation to develop a "county-wide protocol for investigating all officer-involved deaths" to avoid any conflict of interests that could arise from departments investigating

  • Allow the Firearms Review Board's civilian observer to have a stronger voice and presence in the review process.

  • Review and potentially increase hiring standards, and increasing training for Sergeants, as well as emphasizing de-escalation training for patrol officers.

  • Provide greater detail on incidents listed in monthly-ish Office of Professional Accountability reports, as well as details about any policy changes made as the result of a complaint.

  • Simultaneously refer cases of officer misconduct to King County Prosecutor's office, along with the City Attorney for review.

  • Use in-car video of real-life situations in officer training

  • Require "mandatory and timely testing [for drugs and steroids] of all officers involved in all use of deadly force incidents." The letter says similar policies have been adopted in Albuquerque, Boston, Dallas, New York, Phoenix, and San Diego.

  • Adopt "a policy of rotation of officers and detectives on a predetermined schedule," just as Bellevue PD Port of Seattle, Pierce County Sheriff's Office, San Jose, and LAPD do.

  • Retain complaints of misconduct for the duration of an officer's career with SPD—plus an additional seven years after—"to better maintain accurate historical perspective.." The department currently only keeps records for about three years.

  • Give "preferential consideration to recruit and promote candidates with post-secondary education."

  • Use special training "when hiring military veterans with combat exposure" to help better transition military veteran applicants into jobs within the police department.

A number of these recommendations would have to be hammered out as part of the Seattle Police Officers Guild's new contract—currently being negotiated between the city and the guild—which might prevent the department from implementing some of these policies any time soon.

Nevertheless, this is the best set of suggestions I've seen come out of city hall so far on how to restore the public's faith in SPD's complicated and less-than-transparent accountability system.

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