SEATTLE — Just days after the federal government criticized Seattle police for “excessive and unconstitutional use of force,” Mayor Mike McGinn announced plans for sweeping changes and a top-to-bottom review of the department.
McGinn outlined a list of reforms in a Wednesday letter sent to the community.
That letter went out just after community members sent McGinn their own letter demanding he not wait to take action on the Justice Department review.
“Today I ordered the chief to begin implementing the reforms outlined in the DOJ report,” McGinn said.
The DOJ report pointed to what it called a “pattern of excessive and unconstitutional use of force.”
The ACLU and more than 30 community groups agree with that assessment, and said so in their letter to the mayor.
“Community leaders are very concerned,” said Jennifer Shaw of the ACLU. “They want to see solutions and want to see the DOJ recommendations carefully considered and the city to take it seriously.”
Within hours of receiving the letter, McGinn responded with a letter to the ACLU. With Police Chief John Diaz at his side, McGinn said there was no time to wait on reform.
McGinn insists that this is nothing new and that he and Diaz intended all along to accept the DOJ’s recommendations, even though on Friday they referred to those same conclusions as “allegations.”
“You have to understand that I grew up in this department,” Diaz said. “I see the work that the men and women in it do everyday.”
But Diaz insists he will not only implement the DOJ reforms, but a number of other changes as well.
Among those changes will be a new system of direct supervision of one sergeant per squad, the creation of a new Professional Standards Section, improved use-of-force investigations, top-to-bottom review of all policies and procedures and improving the Office of Professional Accountablity that investigates officer response.
“We will get through every one of those changes and we will do it with the help of the community,” Diaz said.
To do that, McGinn announced a Citizens Oversight Committee, which the ACLU believes should be the first priority.
“From the beginning, we’ve been committed to having a highly professional police force that treats everyone with dignity and respect,” McGinn said.
One of the biggest changes is the way the department will review use-of-force incidents. Three months ago Diaz created an interim “Force Review Board” made up of supervisors, use-of-force trainers and commanders to meet on a weekly basis to review every use-of-force incident.
On January 4, that board and its process will become official department policy.