This afternoon, Judge James Robart issued an order authorizing the City of Seattle to proceed with its proposal to assess its police accountability system and formulate a methodology to achieve compliance under the 2012 Consent Decree.
This morning the Community Police Commission filed its own brief with the U.S. District Court, in response to last Thursday’s submission of the city’s proposal to evaluate its police accountability system and come back into compliance with the Consent Decree.
In a case that has taken on broad significance for police accountability in Seattle, this afternoon King County Superior Court John McHale vacated an arbitrator’s decision last year to overturn the termination of SPD Officer Adley Shepherd for punching a handcuffed suspect in the face while she was in the back seat of a patrol car.
This evening the City of Seattle submitted its proposed methodology for evaluating the city’s police accountability system, as required by U.S. District Court Judge James Robart who oversees the SPD consent decree.
As a footnote to my earlier post on Mayor Durkan’s proposed plan to get the consent decree back on track, there has been one particular troublesome issue that has generated more heat than light: whether police officers should be able to appeal disciplinary actions to arbitration. The CPC had a few thoughts on that in their letter yesterday.
With a rapidly approaching August 15th deadline for the city to submit to Judge James Robart the plan for how it intends to evaluate its police accountability system, the Community Police Commission has reiterated its rejection of Mayor Durkan’s proposed plan.
At her press conference yesterday, Council member Lorena Gonzalez showed a”subway map” diagram of the complex disciplinary process for SPD oficers and supervisors as defined under state law, local law, and its contracts with the two unions representing officers and supervisors.
Here are the diagrams — both high-level and drill-downs. Kudos to the Office of Inspector General for Public Safety for taking the time to make and publish them.
Of particular interest are the grievance and arbitration processes, which are one of the reasons that Judge Robart recently found the city out of compliance with the Consent Decree. The arbitration process allows for “forum shopping” by officers between the Public Safety Civil Service Commission (PSCSC) and an outside arbitrator, and allows the arbitrator to overrule a disciplinary decision by the Chief of Police (something Robart found particularly problematic). However, under state law public safety officers have the right to arbitration as a path for appealing disciplinary findings, in part to compensate for the fact that they are forbidden from participating in labor strikes. The 2017 Police Accountability Ordinance removed arbitration as an option, forcing all appeals to go through the PSCSC, but arbitration was reinstated as part of negotiating the SPOG contract (because the city can’t unilaterally take it away if the officers don’t want to give it up).
Last week, when it became known that Mayor Durkan had hired an outside consultant firm to develop a Court-ordered methodology for assessing the city’s police accountability regime, there was near-instant backlash from 24 community groups as well as the Community Police Commission. Today, three City Council members jumped on that bandwagon.
Last week the Seattle Police Department published its annual report on stops and detentions, with numbers for 2018. It begins by noting that Terry stops are up substantially over 2017 numbers — but then it provides another 25 pages of text, tables and charts that offer little help in understanding why. In fact, SPD itself admits in the report that they don’t know what the increase means:
SPD conducted 18.5% more Terry stops in 2018 than in 2017. However, statistical trend analysis shows that this increase appears to be an anomaly. Our analysis next year will indicate whether a pattern is developing or whether 2018’s data are a one-time increase.
But the data tells a clearer story than SPD is letting on. It took a few days of work to reverse-engineer and otherwise piece together the data that the department left out of its report and to follow the bread crumbs through it, but here’s the story that the data tells.
As he promised last week, this afternoon Judge James Robart issued his written ruling finding that the City of Seattle has fallen partially out of compliance with the 2012 Consent Decree on biased policing practices.
In so doing, he clarified some questions raised by his bench ruling last week, but left other important ones unanswered.