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Judge allows Seattle to get outside help on police accountability

The latest chapter in Seattle's consent decree. (Matt Pitman, KIRO Radio)

A federal judge ruled the City of Seattle could seek outside help in order to get back in compliance with a consent decree related to police reforms.

Seattle gets more time to comply with police consent decree

“These national experts will help the parties to not only address the Court’s concerns, but further strengthen a culture of continuous reform and improvement, inform the parties of potential other best practices, and inform collective bargaining,” said Mayor Jenny Durkan and City Attorney Pete Holmes in a joint statement.

Back in May, U.S District Judge James Robart ruled Seattle had fallen partially out of compliance with the decree on police accountability. In July, he granted the city 30 days to come up with a plan to address the issue.

That plan was presented in August, where Durkan proposed the use of outside consultants to compare Seattle’s policies with 20 other cities. Now, the city has the approval it needs to enlist the aid of those experts.

Even so, Robart also cautioned the city against using those experts to justify its existing approach to police accountability.

“…if the City intends to use the nationwide survey to justify its current accountability system, then the exercise will be a failure, reform will be delayed, and full and effective compliance with the Consent Decree will recede further into the future,” he detailed in his nine-page ruling.

Seattle’s been operating under the consent decree since 2012 — led by then-U.S. Attorney Jenny Durkan — after a DOJ investigation “found a pattern or practice of excessive force that violates the U.S. Constitution and federal law.”

Its most recent failure to comply could have the city stuck under the decree for years later than it originally had hoped.

The latest chapter in Seattle’s police accountability saga

Robart’s ruling in May cited concern over one recent incident, where Seattle Officer Adley Shepherd was fired after punching a handcuffed woman in the back of his patrol car. Officer Shepherd was later reinstated by an arbitrator.

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