Deciding What to Audit

The police accountability ordinance identifies numerous areas for auditing within the Seattle Police Department (SPD), drawing from a history of areas of concern or community interest. Providing oversight for a department with over 2,000 employees and an annual budget of over $380 million presents limitless areas of inquiry. In order to decide where to allocate resources, the Office of Inspector General (OIG) employs the following decision-making criteria to decide which audits to undertake in a given year:

  • Is the issue within the OIG scope of authority?
  • Is there another entity that is more appropriate to undertake the inquiry?
  • Is the issue one of significant risk to the City in terms of potential outcomes?
  • Does OIG have the resources to undertake the issue?
  • If OIG undertakes the issue, is the matter best addressed by an audit or other type of review?

OIG Audit Selection is Risk-Based

Selection of OIG audits is risk-based. When developing the plan, OIG considers both the impact of a potential issue and likelihood of a system problem. That is, what are the potential consequences of a particular system being broken (impact), as well as the probability that a problem exists (likelihood). OIG identifies potential areas of inquiry by looking at information from a wide variety of sources, such as information gathered by staff through prior activities, systematic review of SPD organizational units and policies, referrals from stakeholders, and input from community.

What topics can OIG audit?

In order to perform its audit and review work, OIG is empowered with broad access to SPD and OPA data and operations. The police accountability ordinance (3.29.270.A) envisions that OIG audits and reviews may include "any and all police operations, for the purposes of determining whether SPD is meeting its mission to address crime and improve quality of life through the delivery of constitutional, professional, and effective police services consistent with best practices, and meeting its mission in a way that reflects the values of Seattle’s diverse communities." These audits and reviews may include, but are not limited to, the following:

  1. All SPD and OPA policies, regulations, practices, budgets, and consultant contracts;
  2. SPD administrative investigation unit processes, such as force review and collision review;
  3. SPD crime data and overall crime data collection and reporting practices;
  4. Recruitment, hiring, post-Academy and in-service training, promotions, assignments, use of overtime, secondary employment, deployment, and supervision, including command and front-line supervisory functions;
  5. The effectiveness of any early intervention or performance mentoring system in supporting improved officer performance and mitigating misconduct;
  6. Technology and systems of data collection, management, and analysis;
  7. The acquisition of, uses, and significant changes to tactical equipment, vehicles, facilities, and uniforms;
  8. The accuracy and thoroughness of video recording reviews and the appropriate recording and retention of video recordings;
  9. Patterns, including disparate impacts, in SPD deployment, uses of force, re-classifications of levels and types of force; stops, arrests, searches, and interactions with those in behavioral crisis;
  10. Incidents of significant concern to the public, such as those involving injury or death in police custody or the management of demonstrations;
  11. Patterns in complaints and misconduct outcomes involving, among other categories, use of force and biased policing;
  12. Assessment of the fairness, objectivity, certainty, timeliness, consistency, and the appropriate application and effectiveness of imposed discipline in sustained misconduct cases;
  13. Evaluation of the final outcomes of appeals and grievances and whether overturned findings or discipline, or other settlements, suggest opportunities to improve OPA processes and SPD training;
  14. Assessment of inquests, federal and local litigation, and their final outcomes, patterns relating to civil claims and lawsuits alleging SPD misconduct, payout amounts over time, units disproportionately represented as subjects of claims and lawsuits, related training, and review of the investigation of the underlying incidents described in such claims and lawsuits; and
  15. Evaluation of appropriate SPD records retention, and conformity to public disclosure, open access to information, and privacy standards.