Assistant Chief Merner Selected as Chief of Portsmouth, NH Police Department

It is with mixed emotions that I announce that Assistant Chief Robert Merner has been offered a job as police chief of the Portsmouth Police Department in New Hampshire. I couldn’t be more proud of Chief Merner. He has effectively led the Criminal Investigations Bureau for the last two years, building relationships with our communities, as well as our local, state and federal police partners. Under Chief Merner’s leadership, we launched our Real Time Crime Center and expanded our data driven efforts to address crime and disorder in our city. He will take the experience he gained in Seattle and Boston to the Portsmouth Police Department.

Chief Merner is also a new grandfather. With his family still in New England, this chief executive position will bring him closer to his first home.

Chief Merner will remain with Seattle Police for another month. During this time, Chief Merner will support transition efforts and assist in selecting his successor.

Statement from Chief Merner:

This news is bittersweet. I am proud of the men and women of the Seattle Police Criminal Investigations Bureau. Your relentless pursuit of criminals has reduced crime, making Seattle a better place for those who live and work here. I appreciate the opportunity that Chief Kathy O’Toole has given me. While I won’t be cheering for the Seahawks, I will miss Seattle and will take with me lifelong friendships.

Chief O’Toole’s Statement on Irish Nomination

Late last evening, I received a call from the Deputy Prime Minister of Ireland who informed me that she intended to nominate me as chair of a commission to reform Irish policing.  I am certainly honored by this nomination, but also it is a testament to the incredible work the men and women of the SPD have accomplished over the past four years in bringing this department into compliance with our federal consent decree and embracing principles of reform.  While I have not yet had the opportunity to discuss this nomination more fully with the Irish government, it in no way lessens my commitment to the Seattle Police Department and the people of Seattle.  To the contrary, I look forward to the opportunity to share the lessons learned in Seattle on an international level, while continuing to focus on reform, halting gun violence, and building bridges with those we serve.

Statement from Chief O’Toole on Recent Gun Violence

In the last 24 hours, there have been five shooting incidents, leaving one person dead and four others injured. We offer our deepest sympathy to the family of the young woman who died yesterday. Our hearts go out to these victims and their loved ones.

We are outraged by the gun violence, and neither our department nor our community will tolerate it. We have been working consistently with our federal, state, and county partners, and convened a meeting today to redouble our efforts.

Our department is working around the clock to investigate these incidents. We stand together with our community to bring those who have brought violence onto our streets to justice.

Statement from Chief Kathleen O’Toole on Use of Force Assessment

I want to take this opportunity to share with you the results of the Monitor’s assessment on SPD use of force, which will be filed with the court today and no doubt be the subject of much media attention. In short, the Monitor’s assessment confirms the data that SPD reported on earlier this year: of the hundreds of thousands of unique incidents to which SPD officers respond every year, only a small fraction of one percent result in any use of force.  An even smaller percentage of those rare occasions when officers do use force involve any force beyond low-level, Type I use of force, and the use of serious, high-level force is an extraordinarily infrequent occurrence.  Also, as bolstered by OPA’s annual report, which was delivered to the Mayor yesterday, in excess of 99 percent of all uses of force are categorically within policy.

Furthermore, these remarkable results are not the result of de-policing, as some have charged, nor do they correlate to an increase in crime, as some predicted would occur.  To the contrary, dispatch data show that officer productivity, whether in response to 911 calls or proactive patrols, is increasing.  Crime is down by ten percent over last year, city-wide.  The rate of officer injury has not increased.  In other words, this reduction in the use of force cannot be attributed to anything other than what can now be statistically shown:  officers in the field are de-escalating volatile situations with regularity and skill, putting in practice the training that has established Seattle as a national leader in policing reform.

The credit for this achievement can be spread throughout the department, but the highest praise goes to those officers in the field who have embraced the training and heightened requirements in reporting and review, and have done so under intense scrutiny. I want to share with you, in particular, the following paragraph from the Monitor’s assessment:

“However, the credit for this major milestone goes first and foremost to the men and women of the Seattle Police Department. This assessment is fundamentally an analysis of their performance over time. Their ability to meaningfully and effectively implement the use of force policies and apply the related use of force training on the streets of Seattle – while facing the unpredictable challenges that are part and parcel of law enforcement – is worthy of substantial praise. The Monitoring Team’s respect for the many committed professionals who serve, protect, and partner with the community to solve problems and make Seattle a place for all to live, work, and play is unwavering – but burnished all the more by the demonstration of strong trends and good performance. As this report elsewhere makes clear, police officers in Seattle are frequently tasked with addressing individuals and situations that the rest of the social service fabric has failed, left out, or left behind. Their ability to innovate, change approaches, and change the course of the Department while addressing these fundamental duties is commended.”

I could not agree more.

Thank you, to all of you, for your continuing professionalism, compassion, and dedication in your service to this City.

Download full report here.


Seattle Police Department Sets Future Priorities

In November 2016, we released a report outlining our department’s progress over the past two years. It is equally important that we look to the future. Our strategic plan covers the four pillars of policing that will continue to serve as our guiding principles as we move ahead: Enhance Public Trust, Build Pride and Professionalism, Address Crime and Disorder, and Promote Best Business Practices. This plan is dynamic, and reflects input we have received from officers in the field and those living and working in our community.