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Good News For The Emerald City
And Seattle PD:
Judge finds Seattle Police Dept. in "full compliance" with years long
court-ordered reforms

January 11, 2018

Seattle Police emblem seen on jacket of acting Seattle Police Chief Carmen Best. Photo: SPD
By Rex D. Cain
Chronicle News & Opinion

SEATTLE, WA.) -- So many times in the past few years when news was reported in this publication and others about police it was often bad, sad, tragic or all the above.

This week came the tragic news of a young family man, Pierce County Sheriff's Deputy Daniel McCartney, 34, shot and killed in the line of duty and prime of life chasing criminal suspects in his county.

Across the nation there have been many other incidents of officers shot and killed or wounded in the line of duty, with some of them being ambush killings -- straight up assassinations of police officers by bad guys.

On the reverse of the ledger, there have been many questionable police shootings that killed civilians or incidents of civilians dying in police custody in other ways that sparked immense outrage.

These incidents angered and horrified Americans to the point were they filled the streets of many a community with angry protests and shouts of "no justice, no peace!"

There have been calls in this state and others for changes in laws that hold police officers to the same level of accountability that civilians are held when officers fire their weapons and injure or kill.

But this week, along with the unfortunate and sad news of deputy McCartney's death, is the very good news that a federal judge, U.S. District Judge James Robart on Wednesday found the Seattle Police Department to be in “full and effective compliance” with court-ordered reforms that hit the desk of the then police chief more than five years ago like ten pounds of lead popping cheap balloons.

It has been a long road with much heavy lifting along the way to arrive at this place and time.

A new day after a long night

The reforms were mandated after a federal investigation found some Seattle police officers engaged in a pattern of excessive force against civilians - often against minorities and/or those with mental or cognitive issues - coupled with related constitutional issues as well as lax internal accountability and supervision and a police system for citizen complaints set up in such a way that civilian complaints against officers almost always never went anywhere.

But now, the dawn of a new day.

"I am thrilled to announce that this (Wed.) afternoon at 3:00, the federal court overseeing our reforms entered an order finding the Seattle Police Department in full and effective compliance with all core areas of the Consent Decree," wrote Seattle Police Chief Carmen Best in a statement. "To all of you who have worked so hard, my deep, heartfelt congratulations, appreciation, and admiration for all you have done and continue to do."

Best acknowledged in her statement "the tremendous leadership of Chief (Kathleen) O’Toole over the past three and a half years. She came to Seattle as a recognized leader in police reform, and her work to engrain in the Seattle Police Department the principled structures and processes for lasting reform cannot be overstated. This achievement is her legacy."

Best also thanked the men and women of the SPD for their hard work to get to this point in time "under intense scrutiny, to serve and protect this City," as well as the leaders of the department "who have worked to ensure that the policies, the training, and our critical review of core areas of the Consent Decree have been exceptional. They have achieved the true goal of making sure these policies and trainings are carried out in the field."

The Chief singled out the following leaders for praise:

Chief Operating Officer Brian Maxey
Assistant Chiefs Lesley Cordner and Steve Wilske
Chief Legal Officer Rebecca Boatright
as well as City Attorney Pete Holmes, Merrick Bobb and the Monitoring Team, the Department of Justice the Community Police Commission and Judge James Robart for their guidance and support through this process.

In yesterday's ruling Judge Robart granted the City of Seattle’s “Motion for Full and Effective Compliance with the Consent Decree," with the motion being based on ten assessments that cover all of the requirements of the Consent Decree that were conducted by the Monitor and DOJ.

The ruling now triggers a two-year period in which the Seattle Police Department (SPD) "must hold compliance with those requirements, said US Attorney Annette Hayes in Seattle.

In a statement she issued about the ruling Hayes noted something important in that it was "data driven assessments" - not anyone's opinion, informed or otherwise - that demonstrated the police department had "eliminated the pattern or practice of unconstitutional policing that led to the Department of Justice’s investigation and findings in 2011."

In other words, this is the real deal: the SPD has changed, has transformed itself for the way, way, way better than the bad old days.

"We know that constitutional policing and effective policing go hand in hand, and that the safety of our City and the officers that serve us is enhanced when the civil rights of all are protected," added Hayes.

And for that there should be a large round of applause for everyone involved.



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