Community members filled Seattle City Council chambers Thursday evening to air their opinions about new police accountability measures meant to address the breakdown in public confidence following the federal investigation and censure of the Seattle Police Department in 2011.
The proposal has three key measures: an oversight body staffed by civilians, an inspector general to conduct audits of the department and an Office of Police Accountability to conduct investigations into accusations of officer misconduct.
In some respects, the proposal cements institutions that formed as a part of the intervention by the federal Department of Justice (DOJ) in 2012, such as the Community Police Commission (CPC). The DOJ investigated the SPD at the request of community organizations concerned about racial bias and excessive use of force.
Although the investigation did not come back with a concrete finding of racial bias, the DOJ did find a pattern of excessive use of force and negotiated a consent decree with the police department to address it.
The proposed changes would, among other things, make the CPC a permanent body, no longer a “creature of the consent decree,” as staff described it Thursday night.
That’s critical, said Arsalan Bukhari, executive director of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR). CAIR was one of the original groups that requested a federal investigation of the police department.
“Our community must take the lead,” Bukhari said. “The CPC is our voice. The CPC is a community-led entity that is accountable to us.”
The full council expects to vote on the proposal in May, after five more meetings on the proposal.