Justice Department Findings on Seattle Police

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SPD PatchThe Department of Justice findings confirm what many, including myself, have believed for some time—our police department can do better.

Chief Diaz, the police command staff, every officer and civilian employee of the Seattle Police Department and the elected leaders of our city should embrace this informed, constructive criticism and work quickly to implement fundamental and sustainable reforms. Rebuilding the public’s trust and confidence in the Police Department is an essential and urgent obligation.

I have great respect and admiration for the good work the officers and civilian employees of the Police Department do every day. The vast majority of our officers do their jobs in a fair and professional manner that meets the high expectations we set.  More on this below.

At the same time, today’s findings raise concerns about management and oversight inside the Police Department, from the command staff down to first-line supervisors. Over the past 20 years or so, we have gone through repeated evaluations of police accountability. Multiple changes to procedures and rules have been implemented. Civilian oversight of the department has been strengthened. Yet, every few years, the same issues resurface. That’s why I believe so strongly that fundamental and sustainable change must be introduced that will change the culture of the Police Department. The Department of Justice findings can serve as a catalyst for transformation. I expect Chief Diaz and his leadership team will work diligently for this type of sustainable change.

Earlier this week, my office and the Mayor’s staff began discussions about completing an independent management, organization and operations assessment of the Police Department. In a time of continued and significant fiscal challenges, such an assessment would provide the Mayor and Council with objective and expert recommendations that would allow us to reduce costs without harming critical public safety services. This assessment will also provide insight and recommendations that would help us respond to the Justice Department’s findings and introduce the sustainable reforms we need to see in the Police Department.

A final comment about those who serve our city as police officers from a blog post from early last February . . .

The police department is staffed with many good people who do their jobs extremely well. I hope we soon begin to hear the proud voices of wisdom and professionalism inside the department.  These are the voices Seattle needs to hear.  These voices belong to the hundreds of officers, detectives and civilians who do it right every hour of their workday, week after week, month after month, year after year.  When these voices are loosed, cultural change will happen very quickly indeed.