The Office of Professional Accountability (OPA) is the office within the SPD that receives and investigates complaints about police misconduct. The office is directed by a civilian whose job is to oversee the sworn officers who investigate complaints of misconduct and related issues of police practices. A civilian OPA Auditor has independent authority to review all cases. There is also a seven member civilian OPA Review Board that conducts community outreach regarding accountability issues and reviews the operation of the accountability system. Each part is independent, but all three work together to meet the goals of the system. The CPC considers the SPD as a critical fourth component of the overall accountability system.
The bulk of the CPC's work during the first half of 2014 focused on the review of this system. There was a particular emphasis on the accountability structure and the policies and practices of the OPA. Other SPD policies that relate to accountability were also examined.
The CPC recommendations on accountability were informed by the views of the community and developed in collaboration with key stakeholders. The CPC worked closely with the OPA Director and OPA Auditor to identify opportunities for improvements. The CPC's accountability system recommendations were released in April 2014.
In the spring, the CPC issued its initial assessment of the SPD's community engagement activities and programs. It issued an interim report in July 2014 that outlined a comprehensive plan for conducting a full assessment. The plan includes gathering input from a variety of communities, including SPD, on the current state of police-community interactions and engagement; creating a shared vision and guiding principles that conceptualize the "ideal" philosophy for SPD community engagement; developing a list of themes from the information gathered during community outreach and prioritizing them to determine the focus of a gap analysis; overseeing a gap analysis of the chosen areas of focus to determine the differences between the current and the ideal states of the themes identified in the shared vision and guiding principles; returning to the community to share the gap analysis report and develop strategies for change; and developing an implementation plan listing the strategies for change, action steps for how to achieve the desired changes, deadlines, and a means to continuously assess progress.
The CPC is collaborating with the SPD to review new training curricula related to the Department's updated policies on bias-free policing and stops and detentions. The eight-hour training will be delivered to all 1,300 sworn SPD officers in the fall of 2014. In addition to providing input on the training curricula, a Commissioner will attend each of the bias-free trainings and provide a 30 minute introductory presentation.
With the support of a contracted researcher, the CPC is collaborating with SPD in analyzing data on stopped, cited, and arrested individuals to determine if SPD's practices have disparate impact on racial/ethnic groups and understand the extent to which such outcomes are unnecessary. The CPC will then develop recommendations for alternative approaches that support public safety while reducing unnecessary disparities in law enforcement.
In November 2013, the CPC issued policy recommendations on bias-free policing, stops and detentions, use of force, and in-car video recordings. Many, but not all, of the key CPC recommendations were incorporated in policies subsequently approved by the federal court overseeing police reform in Seattle.
- Bias-Free Policing: The CPC initiated critical elements of SPD's new bias-free policing policy, specifically the groundbreaking requirement that data be collected and analyzed for disparate impact.
- Stops and Detentions: The CPC was instrumental in crafting a new policy that more clearly defines the rights and obligations of both police and those stopped and detained by the police.
- Use of Force: The CPC provided detailed suggestions to make the use of force policy more concise and clear for both practitioners within SPD and the public. Some of these suggestions were adopted.
- In-Car Video Recordings: The CPC's collaboration with SPD and others resulted in recommendations on in-car video to ensure consistent and appropriate recordings of police interactions with community members.
The CPC recommendations were informed by the views of the community and developed in close collaboration with key stakeholders. The different perspectives considered ensured that the CPC policy recommendations supported both Constitutional policing and safe communities.
The Commission is particularly proud of its success in obtaining critical information from the community. Through its extensive outreach in October 2013, the CPC gained important insights on both policy issues and general attitudes about the SPD. The CPC-with the help of community partners-received input from more than 3,400 people, many from marginalized communities. A Community Outreach Report details what was learned, which is also summarized in an Executive Summary.
In addition to listening to the community, the CPC worked closely with key SPD, City Attorney, US Department of Justice, and federal Monitor staff to identify solutions. The Commission also sought the views of police officers and their officer and management union representatives.