The 2010 shooting death by Seattle police of First Nations woodcarver John T. Williams, and a series of other serious incidents involving police and people of color, ignited public concern about bias and the use of excessive force in the Seattle Police Department (SPD).
After a federal investigation, the City of Seattle signed a settlement agreement with the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) to reform SPD practices, as well as a memorandum of understanding (MOU) that established the work to be done over three years to ensure bias-free policing and address the issue of use of excessive force.
By ordinance, the City of Seattle established the Community Police Commission (CPC) to provide community input on the proposed reforms. The CPC was mandated under the MOU.
The CPC began its work in March of 2013.
The CPC plays a key role in the reform efforts. The CPC's charge is to represent a broad range of community perspectives and to reach out and engage communities directly, to get critical feedback, and to then recommend changes to SPD policies and practices. It gives community members a voice and stake in the reform efforts.
The CPC is depending on community involvement over the long haul. Community perspective is needed in the short-term on proposed policy changes, but also down the road to help determine whether the policies SPD implements are really working. The CPC fosters ongoing dialogue about police practices with community members, which will help build trust and strengthen community-police relations.
All CPC recommendations are intended to:
- Ensure police services comply with the Constitution and the laws of the United States and Washington
- Increase the effectiveness of the police accountability system
- Promote public confidence in SPD
While the CPC is independent, it works closely with others to promote reform and develop policy recommendations.
The CPC partners with many community organizations. In 2013 it directly contracted with 13 organizations (through which 100 other organizations were also involved) to obtain insights about SPD. All of these organizations are identified in the CPC's January 2014 Community Outreach Report. The CPC continues to partner with these and other groups to ensure that a wide variety of community views are represented in the reform process.
Other key partners include SPD and its Compliance Division, the Office of Professional Accountability, the Mayor's Office, the Department of Justice and other City agencies and departments. The CPC also partners with the Seattle Police Monitor who oversees the settlement agreement and with the DOJ.