Seattle's Police Accountability System

The Landmark 2017 Accountability Legislation created a three-part, civilian-led police accountability system in Seattle. Under that system:

Each of these entities has different functions and areas of focus, but all are able to make recommendations to improve policing in the City of Seattle.

The Community Police Commission

The Community Police Commission empowers the community's voice in the police reform process. The CPC is a diverse coalition of 21 community members. It is designed to be completely independent, from among other things, the Mayor, City Council, and Seattle Police Department (SPD). 

Created by the Consent Decree in 2013 and made permanent by the 2017 Accountability Legislation, the CPC reviews and provides input on the police accountability system, police services, and SPD's policies and practices.

The Office of Police Accountability

The OPA's primary function is to investigate allegation of misconduct within SPD. It is civilian-led, however the OPA's staff is a combination of police officers and civilians. OPA is physically and operationally outside of SPD but within it administratively. This is meant to ensure complete and immediate access to all SPD-controlled data, evidence, and personnel necessary for thorough and timely complaint handling.

In addition to investigating misconduct, the OPA engages to public to increase awareness about the investigation process and makes recommendations to SPD to improve policies.

The Office of the Inspector General

The OIG was established by the landmark 2017 Accountability Legislation and began work in 2018. The OIG is designed to provide objective oversight of SPD and OPA. Its staff is completely civilian. It is designed to be a completely independent agency. 

The main areas of work for the OIG are auditing and systemic review of SPD and OPA; reviewing OPA's investigations and handling of complaints; conducting investigations of allegations against OPA staff; and working with SPD and partners to improve policies and practices.

Consent Decree Partners

The CPC, OIG, and OPA area all permanent entities, continually reforming SPD and holding the organization accountable. However, while the Consent Decree remains in effect, the Department of Justice (DOJ) and court-appointed monitor also provide oversight of the department. 

In the past, the DOJ has participated in audits of SPD and helped hold it accountable to the reforms of the Consent Decree. Meanwhile, the Monitor is appointed by the Court and charged with providing SPD with technical assistance in meeting the requirements of the Consent Decree and reporting to the Court and other stakeholders about the progress SPD is making.