Ursula: The outside investigation of SPD can’t come soon enough

May 1, 2024, 6:02 PM | Updated: 6:04 pm

Photo: Seattle Mayor Harrell has decided to conduct an outside investigation of SPD....

Seattle Mayor Harrell has decided to conduct an outside investigation of SPD. (Photo courtesy of KIRO 7)

(Photo courtesy of KIRO 7)

Saying he takes the allegations very seriously, Mayor Bruce Harrell is hiring an outside investigator to look into claims of gender discrimination and sexual harassment in the Seattle Police Department (SPD).

The decision comes on the same week that four women within SPD filed a $5 million tort claim, alleging sexual discrimination and harassment by Chief Adrian Diaz and other department leaders. SPD is strongly rejecting the allegations, calling them hearsay in an effort to stop the chief from making necessary changes.

Report: Seattle mayor hires firm to probe SPD sexual harassment, discrimination claims

But the complaint is just the latest in a growing number of accusations and lawsuits filed by female officers at SPD. In January, Assistant Chief Deanna Nollette filed a lawsuit against SPD and Diaz, alleging gender, wage and job discrimination. Detective Denise “Cookie” Bouldin filed a lawsuit, claiming she faced daily racism and gender discrimination during her 43 years with SPD.

In his letter to the city council, Mayor Harrell wrote, “We will not malign those who come forward and, to the contrary, will give these claims the close attention they deserve. Our goal is to understand the implications of these allegations and take actions as appropriate.”

This outside investigation can’t come soon enough. It’s desperately needed to address what many within the department have described as an unhealthy, “good ol’ boys” culture. The women who have made the allegations in the tort claim, and in recent interviews with KUOW, are credible. Some of them have worked with us in the media and it was their word that we used and trusted to report news events involving Seattle Police. Mayor Harrell is correct in saying their claims need to be given close attention.

SPD, under Chief Diaz, has made it a goal to have women represent 30 percent of the staff by 2030. But in their so-called 30×30 report, which was made public earlier this year, numerous women made allegations of sexual harassment in the police force. They said the culture at SPD discourages women from leadership. It’s obvious there’s a big disconnect between these stated goals and what is festering within the department.

Lawyer: Women suing SPD for sexual harassment are face of recruitment efforts

It’s not just the women who are complaining. Many of the hundreds of officers who’ve left the department in recent years have mentioned distrust in leadership and poor morale in their exit interviews. Right now, SPD has a culture problem that’s turned into a PR nightmare. It’s no wonder that it also has a very difficult time recruiting new officers. Although the city is now offering 103K dollars for starting officers, bigger paychecks won’t help Seattle Police recruit new talent when there’s something rotting from within.

Listen to Gee Scott and Ursula Reutin weekday mornings from 9 a.m.- noon on KIRO Newsradio, 97.3 FM. Subscribe to the podcast here.

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