Timeline of Seattle Police Accountability

Friday, December 3, 2010
35 community organizations write U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) and U.S. Attorney Jenny Durkan to request investigation of excessive use of force, particularly against people of color by Seattle Police Department (SPD).  They cite recent incidents including an officer kicking and threatening to “beat the [expletive] Mexican piss out of” a Latino man lying face down on the sidewalk; an officer kicking the groin of a Black teenager standing still with his hands in the air and then kicking him several more times after he fell to the ground; and the killing of First Nations wood carver John T. Williams.
Friday, December 16, 2011
DOJ completes investigation and reports “a pattern or practice of constitutional violations regarding the use of force that result from structural problems, as well as serious concerns about biased policing.”
Friday, July 27, 2012

U.S. and Seattle enter settlement agreement, or “Consent Decree,” requiring City to implement reforms “with the goal of ensuring that police services are delivered to the people of Seattle in a manner that fully complies with the Constitution and laws of the United States, effectively ensures public and officer safety, and promotes public confidence ….” U.S. District Judge James L. Robart orders that final approval will be entered after “City has achieved full and effective compliance and maintained such compliance for no less than two years,” or the “sustainment period.”

Monday, January 14, 2013

Mayor appoints 15 individuals to a Community Police Commission (CPC) created by the Consent Decree to “promote greater transparency and public understanding of the Seattle Police Department” and charged with reviewing the police accountability system and making any necessary recommendations.  Members are representative of “the many and diverse communities in Seattle, including members from each precinct of the city, police personnel, faith communities, minority, ethnic, and other community organizations, and student or youth organizations.”

Monday, November 30, 2015

47 community leaders write to Court Monitor Merrick Bobb to express their support for legislation drafted to create a new Seattle accountability law.

Monday, May 22, 2017
After many months of unsuccessful efforts by CPC to secure implementation of reforms through internal policy changes, and additional months of consultation with Seattle’s police and community leaders and locally and nationally recognized accountability experts to draft legislation, City Council unanimously passes an accountability law creating an integrated structure of community input and civilian oversight through a new Office of Inspector General (OIG), a strengthened Office of Police Accountability (OPA), and a permanent Community Police Commission (CPC).
Thursday, June 1, 2017

Mayor signs the accountability law, which states, “the City shall take whatever steps are necessary … including negotiating with its police unions to update all affected collective bargaining agreements so that the agreements each conform to and are fully consistent with the provisions and obligations of this ordinance, in a manner that allows for the earliest possible implementation to fulfill the purposes of this Chapter…”

Friday, September 29, 2017
City asks Judge Robart to find it in compliance with the Consent Decree and start the two-year sustainment period.
Monday, November 13, 2017

City Council approves a new contract with the Seattle Police Management Association (SPMA, representing captains and lieutenants) containing provisions conflicting with the new accountability law.

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

SPD’s Force Review Board (FRB) finds, by unanimous vote, the June 18 fatal shooting of Charleena Lyles to be reasonable, proportional, and within SPD policy.

Wednesday, November 22, 2017

Judge Robart orders City and DOJ to address impact of SPMA contract and FRB finding in the Lyles case on Court’s consideration of City’s motion to be found in compliance.

Wednesday, January 10, 2018

Court grants City’s motion and starts clock on the two-year sustainment period.  However, Judge Robart notes, “if collective bargaining results in changes to the accountability ordinance that the court deems to be inconsistent with the Consent Decree, then the City’s progress in [the sustainment period] will be imperiled.”

Monday, October 15, 2018

City Council introduces legislation to ratify new contract with Seattle Police Officers Guild (SPOG, representing sergeants and officers) proposed by Mayor.

Monday, November 5, 2018
At a case status conference, Judge Robart notes apparent inconsistencies between the SPOG contract and requirements of the consent decree.
Thursday, November 8, 2018
24 community organizations request City Council reject the SPOG contract.
Wednesday, November 14, 2018
Mayor signs the contract.
Tuesday, November 20, 2018
It’s publicly revealed that the Disciplinary Review Board allowed under the SPOG contract had reversed the firing of Officer Adley Shepherd, who punched a handcuffed woman seated in the back of his patrol car hard enough to fracture the orbital rim of her right eye.  The Board reduced Shepherd’s discipline to a 15-day suspension and ordered he be reinstated to a new position and receive full back pay less suspended days.
Monday, December 3, 2018
Judge Robart orders City and DOJ to address whether the SPOG contract’s inconsistencies with the accountability law, particularly regarding disciplinary processes, caused Seattle to fall out of compliance with the Consent Decree. 
Wednesday, May 15, 2019
After reviewing the parties’ briefing and hearing arguments, Judge Robart rules the City has fallen out of full and effective compliance in the area of discipline and accountability. 
Tuesday, May 21, 2019
Judge Robart issues written order for U.S. and Seattle to work with CPC and the Court Monitor and submit, by July 15, a proposal for how the City will regain compliance. The Court further specifies that the City will have to bring itself back into compliance in the area of accountability and then sustain that compliance for two years before the Court will terminate the Consent Decree.
Wednesday, August 14, 2019
More than 30 community organizations write the Mayor to urge the City work with CPC to remedy the ways in which the SPOG contract undermines reforms promised to communities and contained in the accountability law.
Thursday, August 15, 2019
After requesting an extension, City files a proposal to review and compare practices of other cities with Seattle’s accountability system. CPC notes in its response that practices of other cities were thoroughly reviewed and compared with Seattle’s accountability system during the period of 2014 through passage of the accountability law in 2017, and this analysis already informs the legislation that was finally adopted.
Wednesday, September 18, 2019
In preparation for negotiations on the next SPMA contract, two Seattle City Council committees hold a public hearing on the effectiveness of Seattle’s police accountability system.  Thirty-eight community organizations submit a letter pointing out that the last round of negotiations produced police contracts that undermined the 2017 accountability reforms. ACLU Deputy Legal Director Jeffery Robinson testifies, “I am a former Teamster … being pro-union does not mean having an accountability system that does not hold officers accountable.”
Tuesday, October 15, 2019
Judge Robart responds to the City’s August 15 proposal with a reminder that the Court didn’t ask the City to seek approval of a methodology, it ordered the City to return to full and effective compliance with the Consent Decree and seek approval of an accountability system capable of sustaining compliance into the future.
Thursday, December 5, 2019
The Seattle City Council committees hold a public hearing on the next SPOG contract. Community members nearly fill the Council chambers and press for changes in the new police contract “to fix what went wrong last time.”
Thursday, May 7, 2020
The City files a motion to terminate all independent monitoring of progress on the reforms it agreed were necessary to address the Seattle Police Department’s use of excessive force and practices raising serious concerns about racial bias. The City does not address either the Court’s May 15, 2019 finding that it had fallen out of compliance with the Consent Decree in the areas of discipline and accountability or its May 21, 2019 order specifying the City would have to bring itself back into compliance and then sustain that compliance for two years before the Court would terminate the Consent Decree. The City simply says it “has taken significant steps to address these concerns and will submit a filing responding to them by August 1, 2020.”
Friday, May 29, 2020
Protests of the killing of George Floyd by Minneapolis police officers begin in Seattle. On the second day, thousands gather in downtown Seattle. Conflicts between police and protestors erupt, with reports of Seattle police officers using pepper spray indiscriminately and vindictively, punching and kneeling on necks of people who had been arrested, and using flashbang grenades.
Monday, June 1, 2020
The Seattle Office of Police Accountability reports receiving 12,000 complaints about the Seattle Police Department’s handling of the weekend demonstrations.
Wednesday, June 3, 2020
The City of Seattle withdraws its motion to terminate independent monitoring of compliance with the Consent Decree.
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