Editorial: Make Seattle police discipline procedures timely, public
As the flaws in Seattle Police Department discipline procedures become better understood, they must be a priority in police labor contracts.
Seattle Times Editorial
WHAT will it take to ensure credible reform of Seattle Police Department discipline procedures is included and prioritized in labor contract negotiations?
The question has an urgency for Seattle residents, voters and taxpayers with the federal Department of Justice raising disturbing issues about police use of force, and the SPD’s indifferent response to civilian complaints.
Retired judge Anne Levinson, the civilian auditor of the SPD’s Office of Professional Accountability, recently dissected troubling elements of the disciplinary proceedings.
Her 16-page critique laid out how the appeals and grievance process fundamentally embraces delays that lead to inappropriate settlements.
She described a disciplinary system without accountability. The public cannot have confidence in a system that disappears from the public’s radar.
Key for her are enforcement deadlines and a commitment by police management and City Hall to create policies and procedures, and to deploy resources that lead to timely resolution of disciplinary issues.
Certainty and public access to the disciplinary rulings are vital to sustaining public confidence in law enforcement.
Seattle Mayor Ed Murray is talking about the importance of ethical and disciplinary considerations in the hiring of the next police chief. Murray retained his own expert adviser on these police issues. The Seattle City Council must also be held accountable for making disciplinary issues a priority in the next labor contract.
Negotiations might begin in June, though formal positions have not been exchanged.
Can U.S. District Judge James Robart turn his recently expressed frustrations into practicable links between these disciplinary topics and the federal consent-decree process he oversees? If he can meld the two, that would be welcomed by the public that lives with the results.
Revised rules and training related to use of force are meaningless without consequences for misconduct and unprofessional behavior.
Make SPD discipline policies credible, timely and transparent.
Editorial board members are editorial page editor Kate Riley, Frank A. Blethen, Ryan Blethen, Sharon Pian Chan, Lance Dickie, Jonathan Martin, Erik Smith, Thanh Tan, William K. Blethen (emeritus) and Robert C. Blethen (emeritus).
Information in this article, originally published April 12, 2014, was corrected April 13, 2014. A previous version of this story incorrectly stated that Anne Levinson is a retired federal judge.