Community groups urge Seattle to work with the Community Police Commission— not outside consultants—to bring SPD into compliance with federal accountability requirements

News Release: 
Wednesday, August 14, 2019

A coalition of over 30 community organizations is demanding that the City of Seattle abandon plans to hire new, out-of-state consultants and instead collaborate with the Community Police Commission (CPC) and Monitor to bring the Seattle Police Dept. (SPD) back into full and effective compliance on the issue of accountability with the federal consent decree agreed upon more than seven years ago.

“Hiring new consultants and diverting attention away from the Court’s directive serves to undermine, rather than build, community trust,” said Diane Narasaki, Co-Chair of APIC King County.

U.S. District Court Judge James Robart on May 21 found the City had partially fallen out of compliance with the consent decree due to the elimination of police accountability reforms unanimously adopted by the city council in 2017, caused by implementation of the collective bargaining agreement (CBA) negotiated with the Seattle Police Officers Guild in 2018.

Robart ordered the City to consult with the Monitor and CPC to figure out how to assess present accountability and regain compliance with the consent decree.

After learning, in mid-June, that the City had yet to do this, members of the coalition wrote a letter to the City urging prompt collaboration with the CPC.

Instead, Seattle leaders had unilaterally decided to contract with out-of-state consultants, who have had no prior involvement with Seattle’s consent decree work, to conduct a comparison of Seattle’s police accountability system with the systems of other cities via surveys of unspecified respondent samples, site visits with unidentified stakeholders, and redundant review of the CBA and state and local law.

The CPC and its nationally recognized expert, retired Judge and former Office of Professional Accountability (OPA) Auditor Anne Levinson, submitted to the Court their detailed analysis and assessment of how the CBA deviated from and weakened accountability measures that had been legally adopted and publicly committed to in the accountability ordinance and other policies and practices. It was based on this assessment that Robart made his May 21 ruling.

“Supporting excellence in law enforcement includes holding accountable those who do not live up to the highest standards of constitutional policing.  When the public perceives police officers appearing to ‘get off on a technicality,’ community trust in our officers, including the vast majority who execute their duties professionally, suffers,” said Michele Storms, executive director of the ACLU of Washington. “The CBA damaged the Accountability Ordinance to such an extent that it is now unclear what standards police officers will be held to, making their adherence to those standards, accountability, and discipline more difficult, and successful appeals of merited discipline much more likely.” 

Signees include:

ACLU of Washington
API Chaya
Asian Bar Association of Washington
Asian Counseling and Referral Service (ACRS)
Asian Pacific Directors Coalition (APDC)
Asian Pacific Islander Coalition (APIC) of King County
Byrd Barr Place
Casa Latina
Chinese Information and Service Center
Church Council of Seattle
Coalition Ending Gender-Based Violence
Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), Washington
El Centro de la Raza
Faith Action Network
Fred T. Korematsu Center for Law and Equality
John T. Williams Organizing Coalition
Latino Civic Alliance
Legacy of Equality, Leadership and Organizing (LELO)
Loren Miller Bar Association
Mothers For Police Accountability
Northwest Immigrant Rights Project
Not This Time
Public Defender Association
QLaw Association of Washington
Real Change
Seattle LGBTQ Commission
Seattle Women's Commission
Seattle/King County Coalition on Homelessness
Seattle/King County NAACP
The Defender Initiative, Seattle University School of Law
Vietnamese Community Leadership Institute