Heated Words Over Seattle Police Monitor Selection

Oct 18, 2012

The war of words stemming from the effort to reform the Seattle Police Department is heating up.  At issue is the selection of an independent monitor who would oversee the reforms.

The Justice Department and the city are supposed to jointly select the monitor, but city officials can't agree on whom that monitor should be.

Mayor McGinn opposes the selection of a Los Angeles police consultant named Merrick Bobb, who has been described as being one of the country’s preeminent police reform experts. McGinn said he had questions about whether Bobb would be fair.

"Merrick Bobb has a nonprofit, one of his board members is the person that wrote the report regarding the use of force at the City of Seattle, and we have concerns that he will not be viewed as an independent and impartial third-party monitor because of that relationship," he said.

Wednesday night the Seattle City Attorney and four city councilmembers issued a written statement criticizing the mayor, saying that Bobb was their first choice.

"All five of us interviewed the finalists for the monitor position. All five of us—independently and contrary to the mayor’s conclusion—ranked Mr. Bobb as our first choice for this very important position. We intend to advance our recommendation favoring Mr. Bobb’s appointment," the statement said.

That led to a new scathing statement released Thursday from the Seattle Police Officers Guild. The union said it was appalled by the City Attorney and the four city councilmembers.

"Had these elected officials bothered to ask the rank-and-file officers they would have also found that the officers do have some mistrust and it is of a City Attorney and elected officials who have politicized this entire DOJ process for political gain!" the union said.

As to who will make the final recommendation for the city, it’s unclear at the moment. McGinn said under the city charter he believes that the selection is made by him as the chief executive.

Still, he added: "Of course, the council under the charter could pass legislation and pass a law regarding monitor selection, in which case I’m bound to follow that law."

The deadline to submit a choice for an independent monitor is Friday, October 26.