McGinn Orders SPD to Make Changes Outlined by DOJ

By Jonah Spangenthal-Lee December 21, 2011

Mayor Mike McGinn has ordered the Seattle Police Department to begin addressing problems with officer supervision outlined in a scathing report released by the Department of Justice last week on SPD officers' use of force.

"We have heard from the public and now the federal government that more must be done," McGinn wrote in a letter responding to civil rights groups, who have questioned the mayor's commitment to reform at SPD. "We agree. Let us be very clear: we are committed to reform."

Seattle police officials balked at the DOJ's findings, and McGinn seemed to be taking a wait-and-see approach as the department scrambled to find answers to the questions raised by the DOJ about officers' use of force.

Now, it appears McGinn is recalibrating his stance, and says he's ordered SPD to begin "implementations of reforms outlined in the DOJ's report."

That reform will apparently begin with a shifting of supervisors in the department, making sure sergeants regularly work with the officers they're assigned to train and supervise.  Until recently, the department's arcane scheduling system often meant that patrol officers would not regularly see their sergeants, leading to questions from the DOJ about whether officers were receiving proper training and guidance.

The mayor's letter also reiterates the department is creating its Professional Standards Section, Force Review Board and investigative team, and says the department is working to streamline the internal investigation process, and is in the midst of a "top-to-bottom" rewrite of SPD policies. The city will "convene a public review panel" to oversee the changes in the department, the letter says.

While Seattle police and city officials haven't formally committed to the DOJ's recommended changes—which involves entering into a "consent decree," legally mandating revisions to department policies—McGinn says he and SPD "stand ready to work with" civil rights groups and the DOJ.
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