Interview with OPA Director Myerberg in aftermath of Tuesday’s police shooting

Tuesday evening SPD officers shot and killed a man wielding a knife along the Seattle waterfront.  Last night SPD released officer bodycam footage of the shooting, which raises substantial questions about the officers’ actions and generally how SPD officers are trained to respond to an individual with a knife and to crisis situations.  Today I spoke at length with Andrew Myerberg, Director of the Office of Police Accountability, to explore those questions and related issues.

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The competing efforts to restrict SPD’s use of crowd-control weapons

As it stands right now, there are three separate efforts to write rules for how SPD may (or mostly may not) use so-called “less lethal” weapons for crowd control purposes. Since each of the efforts is complex on its own, and the relationship and interactions between them provide additional complications, it’s worth reviewing the whole set to understand where things currently stand and where they might go from here.

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Council sends revised crowd-control weapons ordinance to DOJ and police monitor for review

Today the City Council’s Public Safety and Human Services Committee polished off a draft of a revised ordinance placing restrictions on SPD’s use of so-called “less lethal” weapons for crowd control, and sent it off to the Department of Justice and the court-appointed police monitor for comments. In so doing, the Council is signaling that it still feels the need to legislate in this domain while it also recognizes that the terms of the 2012 Consent Decree constrain its ability to do so.

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Judge Robart shares “harsh words” for the City Council in consent decree hearing

A lot happened related to police reform and the Consent Decree today, with an extra large helping of political commentary from an unusual source. This morning, the court-appointed police monitor submitted a proposed work plan for 2021 that not only lays out his office’s work but also commits SPD and the triumvirate of police-accountability bodies to specific deliverables and deadlines throughout the year. Then early this afternoon the monitor, the DOJ, and the City of Seattle went in front of U.S. District Court Judge James Robart to explain the plan and express their consensus support for it.

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State legislature takes a big swing at police reform

There are several bills working their way through the Washington State Senate right now that aim to make some serious reforms to policing in the state. Two of them are drawing much attention, including from Seattle officials who testified at a hearing on the bills last week. While both bills recognize that many of the issues can be traced back to the collective bargaining agreements negotiated with unions of law enforcement officers, one of the bills focuses on a modest reform to the arbitration system for appealing disciplinary measures while the other “swings for the fence” on an ambitious list …

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Council starts a rewrite of its ban on crowd-control weapons

You may recall that last June the City Council rushed through a near-total ban on SPD’s use of several so-called “less lethal” weapons, including pepper spray, tear gas, rubber bullets, and blast balls after several nights of confrontations between protesters and police officers. Several weeks later, U.S. District Court Judge James Robart, who oversees the 2012 Consent Decree imposed upon SPD, tossed the Council’s ordinance, for two reasons: because it did not follow the process prescribed in the Consent Decree for modifications to SPD’s use-of-force and crowd-control policies; and because in his view it reduced public safety by removing SPD …

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SPD quietly circulating proposed changes to use-of-force and crowd-control policies

Earlier this month, the Seattle Police Department started circulating for review a set of proposed changes to its policies for officers’ use of force and crowd control. It sent the drafts to the city’s three police accountability organizations — the CPC, OPA, and OIG — as well as to the Department of Justice and the court-appointed police monitor, asking for feedback by January 8th. But miscommunications between SPD and the CPC over the feedback process have thrown a wrench into the works and are raising the tensions in a perpetually strained relationship.  

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