Current Progress

Since the mass protest events in Seattle began in late May 2020 in response to the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis, the Seattle Office of Inspector General has worked diligently to develop a Sentinel Event Review process to analyze the protest events.

The Sentinel Event Review process will be used for the 2020 protest events, along with other major police incidents that may occur in the future, such as officer-involved shootings, major vehicle pursuit incidents, or other incidents that the community views as a significant event or negative outcome.

In the six months since the first protest events, OIG has made significant progress in three areas:

  • Community Centered Approach: OIG contacted more than 100 community leaders and representatives to gather input and direction on the developing outline for how Seattle's Sentinel Event Review process will work, and the priority protest incidents that the first Sentinel Event Review Panel should examine. OIG is committed to making the Sentinel Event Review process one that is centered within community, so that Seattle residents and community members have direct influence over how the process unfolds, and which issues and topics are examined by a Sentinel Event Review Panel. The goal is to ensure that the Sentinel Event Review process and the panel's resulting recommendations on SPD policy or procedural changes are aligned with the community's needs and vision of a more just and fair police service.
  • Mapping the Panel Process: Inspector General Lisa Judge and OIG staff members have coordinated closely with a group of roughly two dozen community members and leaders to develop the overall review process and formulate the review panel criteria and makeup. The goal is to avoid the pitfalls of a "typical government task force" process by prioritizing and centering on the input and guidance of the community members. By doing this, the panel's work and recommendations will also be centered on acknowledging community perspectives and aligning SPD policies and procedures more closely with community expectations.
  • Gathering Data and Narrowing the Scope: In the six months that followed the death of George Floyd, there were more than 120 separate protest events, more than 400 recorded uses of force by SPD, and more than 19,000 protest-related complaints submitted to the Seattle Office of Police Accountability. The amount of data and the sheer number of individual incidents that occurred in the summer and fall of 2020 is overwhelming, and the scope is too broad for one Sentinel Event Review Panel to effectively evaluate. OIG research staff have consulted extensively with community leaders on a process to divide six months' worth of events into smaller segments that will be analyzed by a series of Sentinel Event Review Panels.

Updates & Announcements:

  • Jan. 21, 2021 -- Inspector General Lisa Judge talks in depth with Omari Salisbury at Converge Media about the Sentinel Event Review of the 2020 protests. Judge and Salisbury discuss OIG's unique role in police reform and accountability, how Sentinel Event Review differs from other reviews and investigations, and how community is at the center of the OIG review process.
  • Jan. 6, 2021 -- The first SER Panel meets Jan. 10, and begins their work with a Peacemaking Circle session designed to acknowledge emotions and trauma of the 2020 protest events, and initiate reconciliation, healing, and shared purpose and goals for the panel. Led by Saroeum Phoung of Point One North Consulting, the "Peacemaking Circle Process" taught by the First Nation Tagish Tlingit provides an innovative and holistic framework to move people from a culture of conflict to one of true partnership.
  • Dec. 10, 2020 - The Sentinel Event Review Planning Group (community members) and OIG staff set a target of the first week of January 2021 to seat the first Sentinel Event Review Panel. The scope of the first panel review is tentatively slated to be the first two to four weeks of protest events in late May and early June. More specifics of the scope will be announced soon. Panel members have not yet been announced, but two panel meeting facilitators have been selected:
  • Oct. 8, 2020 - OIG convenes the first meeting of the Sentinel Event Review Planning Group. This task force of about two dozen community members, oversight agencies, SPD and other stakeholders will meet weekly to guide the development of the Sentinel Event Review process, and ensure that community input and perspectives are at the center of the process and aligned with review outcomes and recommendations.
  • Aug. 14, 2020 - OIG submits a project report to the City Council titled Review of the SPD Crowd Dispersal Policy and Less Lethal Weapons. OIG reviewed Ordinance 126102 (passed June 15, 2020), commonly referred to as the Crowd Control Weapons (CCW) ordinance. OIG also reviewed SPD's current crowd dispersal policy to determine whether the policies contain sufficient controls to ensure public safety while minimizing harm to non-violent protesters. The project report made several recommendations to restrict the use of less lethal weapons for crowd control to protests that become violent or when certain individuals in a crowd commit violent acts. It also collected and reviewed crowd dispersal policies and materials from eight jurisdictions.
  • Aug. 13, 2020 - OIG holds a virtual community listening forum with more than 30 community members and community organization representatives to get input from the community on how they believe SPD can improve the management of protest events, and how SPD can improve their relationships with community members.
  • July 20, 2020 - OIG begins engaging with two consultants to assist with project management and community engagement for Sentinel Event Review. The consultants were selected for their deep knowledge and broad network of community organizations, leaders, and stakeholders in the Seattle area. The goal is to connect with and engage a broad range of stakeholders in the development of the Sentinel Event Review in order to center the process on community needs and expectations.
  • June 12, 2020 - OIG produces a summary report on the less lethal weapons used by SPD in recent demonstrations. The report covers relevant SPD policies, prior recommendations issued to SPD about these weapons, and external guidance from both civil liberties groups and professional policing organizations.
  • June 5, 2020 - OIG, together with OPA and CPC, issues a joint letter asking SPD to temporarily stop using tear gas until lack of policies and questions about use could be addressed. The Mayor and Chief of Police announced a thirty-day ban with some exceptions.