Federal monitor blasts Seattle police reform efforts
SEATTLE -- A federal monitor says Seattle police are still fighting reforms that were court-ordered by the Department of Justice to cut down on instances of excessive force and biased policing.
Under terms of the Settlement Agreement the police department agreed to in 2012, federal monitor Merrick Bobb files a twice-annual update on the police department's progress toward reform. The latest report finds the pace of change troubling.
"I'm extremely frustrated," said Seattle City Councilmember Bruce Harrell, referring to the findings in the draft report. "I'm going to ask the (police) department to respond and we'll see where the truth is. This is incredibly alarming to all of us."
In the 61-page report, the federal monitor says police commanders are fighting reform efforts, and there are pockets of resistance throughout the department.
In a telephone interview, Interim Chief Jim Pugel says everyone in his agency is on board to comply.
"I can say that any resistance I or others have seen has been overcome," Pugel said.
The monitor payed special attention to how officer-involved shootings are analyzed, saying the process falls "well short of a full, fair and impartial analyses."
Councilmember Harrell found other reasons to be concerned.
"There were some conclusions that the Firearms Review Board have intentionally colluded to have an opinion to make a recommendation that was less than transparent," Harrell said.
The monitor also criticized SPD's in-car camera program, saying "video and audio are missing far too frequently" in arrests or incidents that come under review.
"There are some that are having problems with their microphones," Chief Pugel said, adding that everyone is trained to use the system and expected to meet all obligations.
Taken together, the draft report concludes SPD has failed to make the kind of progress the monitor believes is possible. Seattle Police have 30 days to respond before a final report is submitted to a federal judge. Harrell says he wants to hear out police command staff and then move forward.
"Let's listen to both rank and file and police leadership, see what their opinions are, and somewhere down the road, let's create some change," he said