State of the City: Police Accountability Legislation

On February 1, Mayor Ed Murray transmitted legislation to City Council which will create the strongest civilian oversight of the Seattle Police Department (SPD) in the city’s history. The accountability reform  legislation is the product of months-long discussions with the Community Police Commission (CPC), Federal Monitor Merrick Bobb, City Council and the Mayor’s Office. It reflects Mayor Murray’s commitment to working with the federal court to bring the City into compliance under the U.S. Department of Justice 2012 Consent Decree.

The proposal creates an independent Office of Inspector General to increase systemic review of all SPD policies and practices, transforms the Community Police Commission into a permanent body, and increases the scope and independence of SPD’s Office of Police Accountability (OPA). Eight City Council members have co-sponsored the legislation.

The package sent to City Council includes the following key accountability measures:

  • Creation of the Office of Inspector General, a fully independent office, external of SPD. This office will have jurisdiction over all SPD policies, procedures, and operations with subpoena power to compel cooperation with investigations. The office will have auditing power of OPA investigations and will be charged with evaluating outcomes, investigating patterns of misconduct, reviewing major incidents, and reviewing all aspects of the disciplinary system.
  • Fully independent Office of Police Accountability, whose leadership will be appointed by the Mayor. A mix of sworn and civilian investigators will be supervised by civilian staff. This office will have subpoena power to compel cooperation with investigations and will improve the internal investigation process.
  • Transform the Community Police Commission into a permanent community-led body and formalize its role in the review and revision of SPD policies that affect public trust.  The Commission will review and provide input on SPD hiring as well as recommend improvements to City policies and ordinances. The Commission will serve the lead role in engagement with the community.

Additional Details:

  • The OPA Director, the Inspector General, and the CPC Executive Director have complete budget and program control of their operations and workplans, including authority to hire, supervise, and discharge all their staff.
  • Interference with, or retaliation against, the staff of OPA, the OIG, the CPC, or its Commissioners is expressly prohibited.
  • The CPC becomes the permanent community-based oversight body whose Commissioners represent a range of key perspectives and bring specific expertise to the job of community oversight. The CPC is intended to ensure that not only are police services delivered in a lawful and nondiscriminatory manner, but that they align with community values and expectations.
  • The CPC will be charged with engaging in extensive community outreach to obtain the perspectives of community members and SPD employees on police-community relations, and on SPD policies and practices.


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