Lots of fanfare for police accountability legislation today

“… perhaps the most important piece of legislation during my time in office.”

That’s how Mayor Ed Murray summed it up when he and two Council members held a press conference today to mark the official submission of police accountability legislation to the City Council.

Since receiving the go-ahead from Judge Robart a few weeks ago, his staff has been working on preparing the legislation for the Council’s legislative process. Today marks the official start of the process, which if all goes well will result in a finished bill in May that will be submitted back to the judge for final review.

For background, my recent coverage of the legislation is here and here.

This morning, I and several other City Hall reporters received a technical briefing on the legislation in its current form. I will write up a longer analysis in the next couple of days, but in a nutshell:

  • The legislation is the result of several weeks of further negotiation between the Mayor’s staff, SPD, the CPC, and the City Council members and staff.
  • To no surprise, it’s consistent with the judge’s feedback.
  • For each of the “multiple choice” issues that were in the draft presented to the judge, the city has picked an option to go forward. Many of those choices are now agreed across the stakeholders; a few are still outstanding issues.
  • Several points in the legislation will be subject to collective bargaining with the unions representing the SPD officers and management. That will commence later this year, after the legislation is done (the legislation states that those items don’t come into effect until ratified in a collective bargaining agreement).

The heart of the legislation is still the same: three principles, and three bodies to act on them:

  1. The Office of Professional Accountability, to ensure meaningful officer accountability;
  2. The Office of the Inspector General, to independently review systemic issues;
  3. The Community Police Commission, to give the community a “voice at the table.”

Some issues are still to be worked out, including:

  • How the CPC’s budget is determined, to ensure that it’s adequate for the proper functioning of the commission, properly vetted, and insulated from political forces.
  • Whether sworn police officers should serve on the CPC.
  • Whether the CPC has formal authority to review the performance of the Inspector General.
  • How the Executive Director of the CPC is chosen.
  • How preference points are used to prioritize the hiring of multi-lingual officers and those with important skills needed in modern policing.

The legislation is co-sponsored by eight of the nine City Council members (Sawant is the lone holdout, for reasons unspecified).

Council member Gonzalez’s office has a nifty infographic to help understand the many pieces of this complex piece of legislation. She also published a schedule for development of the legislation over the coming months. The first hearing is next Wednesday, February 8th.

More soon.

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