Seattle Police Reforms Shift To Officer Training

Feb 5, 2014

Seattle’s ongoing effort to reform the police department seems to be shifting to a new phase, from policy to implementation. Seattle Mayor Ed Murray says 2014 will be “the year of training” for Seattle cops.

“It really is about getting training right,” Murray said during a news conference Tuesday.  “Developing training manuals and programs to translate the policies that we’re deciding on – getting those in place and activating them.”

City and federal officials met in Seattle Tuesday in a rare, high-level meeting about police reforms. Participants included the Civil Rights Division's Acting Assistant Attorney General  Jocelyn Samuels, Federal Monitor Merrick Bobb and Seattle Interim Police Chief Harry Bailey. The federal officials praised some recent progress but also cautioned there’s a lot of work ahead.

“The agreements that we reached with the city have been groundbreaking in notable respects,” Samuels said. “The creation of the community policing commission, and the involvement of the community in providing input on the necessary police reforms, on the ways in which those reforms are proceeding and on the ways in which they should be implemented.”

The federally mandated reforms stem from a Department of Justice investigation in 2011. It concluded that Seattle officers routinely used excessive force and it also raised questions about biased policing.

For the near term, Murray said he’s also prioritized some technology upgrades to better collect and evaluate police data. Some key police information, like use of force complaints and lawsuits, are still written out on paper, according to city documents.

Regarding officer training, Murray says he still hopes to see more officers trained on Seattle city streets rather than at the current training location in south King County.

“It’s not what happens in South Seattle,” Murray said about the suburban training. “It’s not the diversity of this city.”

Seattle U.S. Attorney Jenny Durkan also attended Tuesday’s reform meeting. She noted another key factor as SPD moves ahead with changes.

“It’s also going to be that new chief coming in who’s going to be selected by the mayor and who’s going to make that reform effort not something that’s just a one-day occurrence and [says], ‘Check, we’re done, DOJ’s gone, hallelujah,’” Durkan said. “It’s going to be, ‘We are a new department and this is what we stand for.’”

Murray appointed a new interim chief last month and directed him to put the reforms on a faster track. The mayor has also said he hopes to choose a permanent chief by April.