Murray: ‘Police reform is the single most important issue facing my administration’

Mayor Murray released the following statement today:

“Police reform is the single most important issue facing my administration, and it is the issue that receives my most serious and sustained attention as mayor.

Soon, I will be selecting the next permanent chief of police to drive the necessary cultural change that both members of the community and the members of the police force deserve and are eager to see occur inside the Seattle Police Department (SPD).

Seattle’s next chief must be able to transcend the divisions that exist within our community, and between our department and the community, but also the unfortunate divisions that exist within the department itself. Reform is not about picking one group or faction at SPD over others. In fact, it’s these kinds of entrenched turf wars between factions in the upper ranks of the department that have impeded true reform for years.

The next chief will have my support to make any changes he or she deems necessary to achieve true cultural reform within the department. Nothing will be protected as sacred in our pursuit of reform.

But, along with his warning that compliance with the federal court order has been moving at a “glacial pace” over the past year, U.S. District Judge James Robart recently said progress cannot wait for a new chief to arrive. It was my intent from the very beginning of my administration to act quickly on reform, which is why, based on conversations with the federal monitor and others after I was elected, I made the decision to appoint a new interim chief once I assumed office.

Harry Bailey was recommended to me by my transition team as someone who could serve as chief of police on a temporary basis while my administration conducts a national search for a transformational, permanent chief. Any suggestions that his temporary appointment was made for reasons other than his experience, qualifications and commitment to my vision of reform – as well as his assurances that he would not seek the permanent position – are inaccurate.

I tasked Interim Chief Bailey with re-evaluating SPD’s organization structure to ensure greater compliance with the federal court. He responded by quickly establishing a five-unit compliance bureau under the authority of an assistant chief to address the main elements of compliance with the court order. This reflects an unprecedented commitment to reform within SPD; the next chief must build upon this important structural commitment to make continued and improved progress on reform.

The next chief must also be committed to significantly improving public accountability and building public trust. The mistakes my administration made in our first weeks regarding the disciplinary process are well-documented by now, and I have accepted responsibility and apologized for them. They were the result of a new administration still transitioning into office, and nothing more. But these early stumbles have highlighted for me what has been apparent to others for some time about the SPD disciplinary process.

I look forward to acting on recommendations from the technical experts at the Community Police Commission, the auditor and the director of the Office of Police Accountability, and my own expert adviser on police discipline to improve the fairness, timeliness and transparency of this process.

We have far to go before we achieve full reform.  Despite the great work of the vast majority of our officers, the challenges at SPD are deep-seated, and change will not come easily. Fundamental change at the Seattle Police Department is the necessary goal of the federal court order, and I will remain committed to achieving it every day that I am mayor.

But beyond compliance with the court, it is the aspirational goal of my administration to become a model of urban policing for the nation. We must ensure that our officers are properly equipped to solve problems, provide compassionate and Constitutional policing, and keep every neighborhood of Seattle safe.

I pledge to continue working collaboratively and constructively with the federal monitor, the federal court, the U.S. Department of Justice – including the U.S. Attorney General – the City Attorney, City Council and our community partners to achieve these important, critical objectives.”