Statement on my vote against Resolution 31414
Posted: October 22nd, 2012 under Councilmember O'Brien.
Everyone agrees—the City Council, the City Attorney, the Mayor, the Seattle Police Department, the U.S. Department of Justice, and, most importantly, the people we serve—we must reform policing in Seattle. I think we all also agree that the selection of a consent decree monitor to oversee this reform is a crucial decision that will set the stage for the long process of reform that is needed. I was not one of the four Councilmembers tasked with interviewing potential monitors and have not met Mr. Merrick Bobb and my vote against Resolution 31414 today should in no way be interpreted as concerns over Mr. Bobb’s qualifications for the job. I voted against the resolution out of concerns that a group that will be critical to the success of police reform, the Seattle Police Department, has expressed strong opposition to the selection of one specific candidate: Mr. Bobb.
It is essential that the reform process being ushered in with the consent decree and Memorandum of Understanding not be viewed as illegitimate from the start by the SPD personnel who ultimately will have the most to do with ensuring that needed changes occur and are sustained at more than a superficial level. Taking this need for legitimacy into consideration is not the same thing as allowing SPD to “control the process” of Monitor selection. It does, however, require that Seattle and DOJ, or the Court, select a Monitor who will be viewed as fair and impartial by both SPD and concerned community members, and who will be an energetic and committed proponent of needed reform. It should not be necessary to choose between the two.
There is ample reason to recognize that the efficacy of police reform hinges on buy-in and perceived legitimacy among rank and file officers as well as key commanders. We have all had the privilege in recent weeks of listening to Connie Rice explain how important that proved to be in Los Angeles. University of California at Berkeley Professor David Sklansky, in Police Reform From the Bottom Up and in other work, has shown persuasively that buy-in from the rank and file is essential to secure lasting change in police culture. Locally, our own experience over the past two years working closely with SPD officers, sergeants, lieutenants and commanders in implementing an innovative drug enforcement reform program has been that only when we listen to officers and take their viewpoints seriously, is it possible to achieve substantial shifts in practices and viewpoints and are sustainable over time.
I know there will be times in this process when the City or the monitor will call for reforms that SPD says cannot be done, and I will not hesitate to tell SPD they must reform. I have no doubt Mr. Bobb has the qualifications and experience to do the job here in Seattle, but at this early stage in our reform process, my hope is to put forward a monitor who brings both needed experience and legitimacy in the eyes of all stakeholders.
Finally, I want to be absolutely clear that I will support whomever the U.S. District Judge appoints and I expect the Seattle Police Department to honor that choice as well.