About the Plan
This is a time of unprecedented change for the Seattle Police Department. In the next 20 months, we will enact 120 specific reforms, grouped into 20 initiatives. 20 months from now, these reforms—developed through research and the analysis of successes in other police departments around the world—will have redefined how officers protect our city, and created greater and lasting accountability for every member of SPD. Most importantly, we are committed to building a culture in our police force of respect for the community, accountability, and service to the public.
Our community is calling for change. Local political leaders are united in their desire for reform. And SPD has pulled together an unprecedented commitment of resources to lead in those reforms. Chief John Diaz has charged me with leading a team of 32 sergeants, lieutenants, captains and civilians in the implementation of the SPD 20/20 Vision plan.
The constructive criticisms leveled by the Department of Justice have made our department look internally and ask some tough questions about the way we do business. Yes, we are faced with tremendous challenges to overcome, but this is also a unique opportunity to modernize our department.
Our city deserves a world-class department that is on the vanguard of 21st century policing. To do this right, we must decisively establish our own organizational values, while embracing and incorporating the needs of our community.
To take a Seattle-centric approach, we have worked hand in hand with both our allies and our biggest critics, to identify how we can improve the services the department provides to our city. By working closely with community groups, SPD will be more transparent and directly accountable to our city and the people who have helped us design this plan.
There are also realistic, technical challenges that must be met. The role police officers play in our communities has shifted dramatically over the last few decades. Police officers are now tasked with more than simply fighting crime. Our role has shifted to include social services, and officers often find themselves in the role of community liaison in complex social issues. Our values and practices must also shift to reflect these changing and evolving roles.
These are problems many police departments across the nation are wrestling with, and SPD is poised to capitalize on the proven success of other police departments that we partner with. We will also lead the way in the use of modern data-driven techniques, and adaptability to constantly shifting constitutional and legal standards for law enforcement.
In order to firmly establish the vision for a modernized Seattle Police Department outlined in the 20/20 Plan, I have put in place a cohesive team of leaders who live by those values every day, and demonstrate excellence to their peers. The SPD 20/20 team members, charged with implementing the 20 initiatives, come from every unit and every precinct in SPD. Their experience and established relationships in the department will enable them to lead this effort from the ground up.
At every level our plan is about fundamentally changing the culture of an 1,800-member organization. We know that lasting change in a large organization like our department can only come from within. But it’s not enough to simply write new policies. Writing new policies will not be effective if we don’t have the active participation and buy-in of everyone in SPD, top to bottom. We want every officer walking a beat to demonstrate Seattle’s values, every day.
Our community rightly has high expectations for the officers that patrol the streets of Seattle. In the next 20 months, you will see SPD go above and beyond to meet these high expectations. The cultural change we are working toward will be evident in every neighborhood and every interaction with a Seattle police officer.
The SPD 20/20 plan provides us with a tremendous opportunity to partner with our communities, and change the relationship between our city and its police department. We can settle for making superficial changes that will stick only as long as we have the political will to enforce them, or we can fully commit to creating a new culture of respect for individual and customer service in the Seattle Police Department. Today we are demonstrating that commitment to change, and we invite you to hold us accountable.
My greatest fear is that we could let this opportunity pass us by. It is my responsibility to get this right.
—SPD Assistant Chief Mike Sanford