Council President Nick Licata
Councilmember David Della
Councilmember Richard McIver
COUNCILMEMBERS PROPOSE POLICE ACCOUNTABILITY PACKAGE
Della, Licata, and McIver would require Police Chief to provide written explanation of discipline in disputed officer misconduct cases and more
SEATTLE — Council President Nick Licata and Councilmembers David Della and Richard McIver, today, proposed action that would increase accountability and transparency in the Seattle Police Department. The first part of the package is a new law that would require that when the Chief of Police and the Director of the Office of Professional Accountability (OPA), the civilian watchdog charged with investigating allegations of police wrongdoing, disagree about the settlement of an officer misconduct complaint, each would provide a written explanation of the basis of the disagreement. Council President Licata said, “The public has a right to know why the Police Chief would overrule the OPA Director’s discipline recommendations.” Councilmember Della said, “This new law would build trust between the Seattle Police Department and the citizens by promoting accountability.” Councilmember McIver said, “I know from personal experience what it is like to be wrongly roughed up by the police; the Chief must provide a written explanation for his conduct in contested cases.”
The second part of the package is a budget proposal to guarantee that future funding for OPA cannot be used by the Police Department for any other purpose except what is intended by the Council, unless there is a vote of the Council to reallocate those funds. Previous OPA Director Sam Pailca raised this as one of seven “Areas of Suggested Improvement for Current Oversight Structure” at a meeting of the Mayor’s Police Accountability Review Panel last month. Since the Mayor’s Panel is not scheduled to make its recommendations until after the Council passes the 2008 Budget, Councilmembers Licata, Della, and McIver are bringing this proposal forward now so it can be part of the Council’s budget deliberations that will began later this month.
This proposal comes after several high profile cases where the Police Chief overruled the OPA Director’s recommendations for discipline. On July 2, 2007, the Council’s OPA Review Board (OPARB) issued a report (accessible on the web at www.seattle.gov/council/oparb/) that looked at cases from the past few years where the Chief disagreed with the OPA Director. The report concluded, “OPARB recommends that the Chief of Police state his reasons in writing for overruling any proposed OPA finding or disposition.” In 1999, Judge Charles Johnson’s Blue Ribbon Panel reached the same conclusion and former Mayor Paul Schell and then-Police Chief Norm Stamper adopted the recommendation as an administrative matter, although it did not have the force of law. In recent years, the Police Chief has not been providing such written explanations, however.