Federal judge rebukes Seattle council for running afoul of SPD consent decree in 2020

Feb 5, 2021, 5:36 AM
Seattle protest, indirect lobbying, Seattle police...
Protesters gathered outside City Hall. (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren)
(AP Photo/Ted S. Warren)

The City of Seattle, the Department of Justice, and federal monitors filed their plan Thursday for adhering to the city’s ongoing police consent decree in 2021. In the midst of that filing, U.S. District Judge James Robart urged city leaders to move in a “common direction” regarding the future of policing at the local level.

Rantz: Seattle Police on pace to lose nearly 200 officers in 2020

Operating under a federal consent decree since 2012, the city has a legal obligation to ensure that any large scale changes to police policy garner the approval of a federal monitor, as well as Judge Robart, who oversees the decree at the judicial level.

On Thursday, Robart admonished Seattle City Councilmembers regarding a series of moves made over the last year in the interest of reimagining the Seattle Police Department, detailing how those decisions ran afoul of the consent decree’s oversight requirements.

“I have some rather harsh words for city council over the last six months or so,” he said. “I think they have lost sight of the fact that the 100 paragraphs in the consent decree are not commitments — they are obligations, orders from this court of things that will be done.”

“When they decide to take matters into their own hands in contravention of the consent decree, then they drag me into a situation that I don’t want to be in, which is telling them, ‘no, you can’t do that,'” he continued.

That came to a head in July 2020, when Judge Robart blocked legislation passed by city councilmembers that would have enacted stringent limits on the SPD’s use of crowd control weapons. The following month, he warned the city to be “mindful” of the consent decree as it debated significant cuts to the SPD’s budget.

That was all part of a larger process that Robart described Thursday as absent of communication among city leaders, law enforcement, and federal monitors, that eventually culminated in the resignation of SPD Chief Carmen Best.

“That has to end,” he said. “When the city council decides to trim the budget and announce a reduction in a number of officers on the force and salary cuts without ever talking to the police, and is in fact ignorant of the circumstances, there are consequences to that, including Chief Best’s retirement.”

“You can’t simply charge off in a direction without knowing what the consequences are,” he added.

As the city continues to mull over changes to policing, Robart advised stakeholders to treat it “as a collaborative effort.”

2 Seattle police officers in Washington DC during riot placed on leave

“Let’s simply make sure that we’re all moving in one common direction, and not fracturing into a whole series of everyone running off in their own way, catering to whatever the issue of the hour is,” he cautioned.

As that effort plays out, Robart outlined how the city will likely see greater challenges in 2021 than it ever has in the realm of policing, brought on by a perfect storm of instability in key leadership positions.

That includes the fact that the city will be electing a new mayor in November, its pending labor negotiations with the police union, an ongoing pandemic, and an interim police chief “at a time where we desperately don’t need an interim chief.”

“That creates a situation which is rife with difficulty,” Robart said. “We’re going into a stormy period — we need some steady hands, and I believe I speak for the citizens when I say they want to see actions not words. You all have your work cut out for you.”

Local News

comic con...
MyNorthwest Staff

Emerald City Comic Con returns Dec. 2-5 after being cancelled in 2020

Emerald City Comic Con didn't happen in 2020 due to the pandemic, but the popular four-day event returns to Seattle on Dec. 2-5.
15 hours ago
Whatcom County...
MyNorthwest Staff

Sumas residents urged to evacuate, National Guard expected in Whatcom County on Sunday

The Washington State National Guard has been pre-deployed in Whatcom County ahead of this weekend’s projected storm systems.
2 days ago
police, Lake City seattle...
KIRO 7 News Staff

Person seriously injured in shooting Friday inside Tacoma Mall

A person is in serious conditions after they were shot in the middle of the Tacoma Mall food court on Friday.
3 days ago
Sawant recall...
Dalton Day

A recall Sawant PAC has been released from campaign contribution limit

The Washington State Public Disclosure Commission has released a recall Councilmember Kshama Sawant PAC from its campaign contribution limits.
3 days ago
hand sanitizer...
Dalton Day

COVID-era artifact, emergency-produced hand sanitizer, comes to an end for local distillery

Copperworks Distilling Company has been ordered to shut down its manufacturing of hand sanitizer, which provided critical health care supplies.
3 days ago
COVID variant...
Charlie Harger

‘Bellwether bond’ down over COVID-variant concerns, ‘sending strong signal,’ says local analyst

Analyst Mike Alfstad of Seattle's Alfstad Capital clarifies how the newly identified COVID variant has affected the 10-Year Treasury yield.
3 days ago

Sponsored Articles

Experience Anacortes

Coastal Christmas Celebration Week in Anacortes

With minimal travel time required and every activity under the sun, Anacortes is the perfect vacation spot for all ages.

Delayed-Onset PTSD: Signs and Symptoms

Lakeside-Milam Recovery Centers SPONSORED — You’re probably familiar with post-traumatic stress disorder. Often abbreviated as PTSD, this condition is diagnosed when a person experiences a set of symptoms for at least a month after a traumatic event. However, for some people, these issues take longer to develop. This results in a diagnosis of delayed-onset PTSD […]

Medicare open enrollment ends Dec. 7. Free unbiased help is here!

Washington State Office of the Insurance Commissioner SPONSORED — Medicare’s Open Enrollment Period, also called the Annual Election Period, is Oct. 15 to Dec. 7. During this time, people enrolled in Medicare can: Switch from Original Medicare to a Medicare Advantage plan and vice versa. Join, drop or switch a Part D prescription drug plan, […]

How to Have a Stress-Free Real Estate Experience

The real estate industry has adapted and sellers are taking full advantage of new real estate models. One of which is Every Door Real Estate.
IQ Air

How Poor Air Quality Is Affecting Our Future Athletes

You cannot control your child’s breathing environment 100% of the time, but you can make a huge impact.
Swedish Health Services

Special Coverage: National Prostate Cancer Awareness Month

There are a wide variety of treatment options available for men with prostate cancer. The most technologically advanced treatment option in the Northwest is Stereotactic Body Radiation Therapy using the CyberKnife platform.
Federal judge rebukes Seattle council for running afoul of SPD consent decree in 2020