City asks Judge Robart to extend deadline for plan to fix compliance with Consent Decree (UPDATED)

This afternoon, the City of Seattle filed a motion in U.S. District Court asking for a one-month extension to its July 15th deadline to tell Judge James Robert how it intends to assess the police accountability regime and how it will come back into compliance with the Consent Decree after Robart found it out of compliance in May.

In today’s motion, which the DOJ joined, the city said that it “has worked to identify experts in police discipline, labor law and arbitration, organizational accountability, civilian oversight, and community policing to develop the methodology and undertake the assessment ordered by the Court.” To that end, it has signed a $53,000 contract with 21st Century Policing, LLC to assist in the assessment, which gives them expert to five key experts, including Ronald David, who served as the Director of the Office of Community-Oriented Policing Services of the DOJ in the Obama Administration. 21CP staff have already begun the contract and have been meeting with local stakeholders.

The motion also lays out a timeline of events for the extra month, if granted:

  • July 17:  21CP will meet with the full CPC to discuss the methodology.
  • July 18: A half-day working session with “experts, parties, Monitor, and CPC representatives,” along with the OIG and OPA.
  • July 29: the city will circulate a draft proposed methodology, developed by 21CP, to stakeholders.
  • July 30- August 7: 21CP experts work with stakeholders to discuss the draft and gather feedback.
  • August 7: CPC full commission meets with 21CP to discuss the draft methodology.
  • On or before August 8: Police Monitor and CPC provide written comments and feedback to draft methodology.
  • August 15: joint submission of the methodology to the Court.

Last month, a group of more than 20 community organizations led by ACLU Washington sent a letter to the Mayor, City Council, and other parties to the Consent Decree urging the city to work with the CPC to address the issues with the police accountability system.

Today Mayor Durkan sent a letter in response, reiterating many of the points in today’s court filing and highlighting the CPC’s involvement in the process.

The CPC’s spokesperson, Jesse Franz, commented in an email this afternoon:

“The CPC just received the City’s official motion to extend and is reviewing it. The CPC hasn’t had a chance to take an official position. But, it is meeting July 17th, and I’m sure this will be discussed in depth. The consultants are also scheduled to be at that meeting.”

UPDATE: The CPC co-chairs,  Rev. Harriett Walden, Isaac Ruiz, and Emma Catague have provided a statement, continuing their criticism of the city’s process:

The Court ordered the City and Department of Justice to work with the Community Police Commission (CPC) and the Monitoring Team to find a way to fix the accountability issues in the police contracts by July 15th.

Five days before the deadline, the City has not yet held any meetings with all of the stakeholders mentioned by the judge.

The City’s filing should be considered in light of the following facts:

(1) From 2013 forward, the participants in the federal court consent decree process—in partnership with many community groups—engaged in a multi-year effort to assess Seattle’s accountability system and recommend reforms, culminating in the passage of the 2017 accountability ordinance.

(2) Earlier this year, the CPC prepared and filed extensive documentation relating to ways in which the police contracts departed from the reforms. Judge Robart sided with the position taken by the CPC. Judge Robart’s order did not mention hiring outside consultants.

(3) The City did not ask the CPC for its position before deciding to hire the outside consultants.

(4) There is extensive expertise within the City, DOJ, Monitor Team, and CPC that can and should be leveraged to come up with a plan to bring the City back into compliance with the consent decree.

While the CPC hasn’t taken an official position and won’t be able to until we meet on July 17, the CPC has heard significant concerns from community groups about this process—including concerns about what the hiring of outside consultants will mean to years’ long work on this subject that has already been done. Those concerns are not falling on deaf ears.

The CPC has invited to the out-of-state consultants to our next full CPC meeting next week. We look forward to the discussion.

There is important work to be done to reform the accountability provisions of the contracts and the other identified weaknesses in Seattle’s police accountability system.

 

Conspicuously missing from the process and the list of stakeholders: SPOG, the union of SPD officers. Its contract with the city, which rolled back some of the provisions in the 2017 police accountability ordinance was the principal reason that Robart found the city out of compliance with the consent decree. Unless and until SPOG is back at the negotiating table, it’s unclear how the city finds a path back into compliance. According to the city, outside of the “re-openers” specified in the SPOG contract (which don’t include arbitration, a key issue), the city must provide 180 days to fully re-open the contract in order to allow the community and stakeholders time to weigh in ahead of negotiations.

According to the Mayor’s spokesman Mark Prentice, they are waiting to engage with SPOG until after the methodology is developed and has court approval:

“The Court ordered the parties, with the assistance of the Monitor and the CPC, to develop a methodology for assessing the accountability regime. That process is underway and the Court must approve this plan. After this process is complete, the City can work with the DOJ, SPD, Monitor, community, and accountability partners to move forward on next steps — and will also seek Court review.”

 

UPDATE: Judge Robart has granted the extension.

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