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Originally published Sunday, March 23, 2014 at 3:48 PM

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Editorial: Overhaul Seattle Police Department disciplinary rules

Rework the disciplinary proceedings for the Seattle Police Department. Upcoming labor negotiations and the hiring of a new chief are key.

Seattle Times Editorial

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SEATTLE police officers have every right to expect a healthy measure of respect for the difficult, often dangerous, work they do. That respect needs to be present in the training, pay and leadership they receive.

The citizens of Seattle have every right to expect the department will set clear standards of behavior for its employees and hold them accountable.

The current discipline system is an expensive, time-wasting hoax. Perhaps the best indicator of that is the apparent bafflement evident in a report to Mayor Ed Murray by an outside expert brought in to unravel the mystery.

Bernard Melekian, a former police chief, looked at half-dozen cases in bureaucratic limbo for up to four years, and quickly concluded:

“These cases are illustrative of what has become a flawed complaint and disciplinary process in Seattle, and should help to identify necessary improvements that should be made to that process.”

At one point, Melekian notes, the cases do not represent efforts to circumvent the normal procedures; the standard process is flawed.

Confirmation of the labyrinth was apparent in a letter from Interim Chief of Police Harry Bailey to the city’s Office of Police Accountability. Behold an incestuous process designed to grind to a halt.

The Seattle City Council was, by some descriptions, stunned to learn of yet another appeals process in a system laden with diversions, stalls and obfuscation.

Seattle residents have every right to expect complaints will receive timely attention. The police have every right to expect a fair process.

The department’s disciplinary process is as crusty and dated as its use of available data to inform police work.

Reformation of an insular department starts with hiring a new chief.

Editorial board members are editorial page editor Kate Riley, Frank A. Blethen, Ryan Blethen, Sharon Pian Chan, Lance Dickie, Jonathan Martin, Thanh Tan, William K. Blethen (emeritus) and Robert C. Blethen (emeritus).

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