Earlier this month the court-appointed monitor overseeing the city's progress on police reform said Seattle still had steps to take before it's compliant with its U.S. Department of Justice settlement, the 2012 consent decree. The city attorney's office is now asking the court to rule otherwise: support that the city is done. At least, with the first phase.
The city attorney's office on Friday asked U.S. District Judge James Robart to determine Seattle compliant with the consent decree, arguing that the monitor's 10 assessments was enough to show the city has ended its pattern of excessive force. If the Western District of Washington court rules that SPD has complied, the city would still have to show it stays that way for another two years.
“We will continue to work, through the consent decree and under continued oversight from the monitor and court, to sustain the important reforms that have already taken place, build upon them, and implement the city’s recent police accountability ordinance to ensure that reform will continue long after the end of federal oversight," city attorney Pete Holmes said in a statement.
The decision, by Holmes and Mayor Tim Burgess, would be the first time the city explicitly asks for the "full compliance" status from Robart since the process for police reform began five years ago. The DOJ sued the city and found patterns within the Seattle Police Department for excessive force and biased policing.
"The court should not require (the) city to address the 'outstanding elements' and other tasks in the monitor's recent compliance report before declaring full and effective compliance, despite the monitor's well-intentioned interest in exceeding the requirements of the consent decree," assistant city attorney Josh Johnson wrote in the statement. "The city shares that interest; it has embraced reform and taken it beyond what the decree requires. SPD's revised policies and practices exceed the requirements of the decree and have become nationally-lauded models."
That puts the city in conflict with court-appointed monitor Merrick Bobb's report earlier this month, which said the city made "great progress"—and out of the 10 assessments, Bobb said the city met all of them—but fell short of saying the city was compliant. Bobb listed some unfinished business, like labor negotiations with police unions and determining whether systemic issues were involved with the June shooting of Charleena Lyles.
Another point Bobb made: filling the position of the independent inspector general—"perhaps the single most important guarantee that the SPD will continue to practice constitutional policing beyond the life of the consent decree."