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3 points: Mayor Murray’s big changes for Seattle police

(AP file photo)

Seattle Mayor Ed Murray held a Facebook live chat, clarifying his latest action in office: reorganizing oversight of the Seattle Police Department. Legislation he recently proposed has a few parts, starting with creating a civilian Community Police Commission.

“This isn’t a gotcha situation with police, this isn’t an adversarial relationship,” Murray said. “This is about using best practices, getting training right … this is about hopefully identifying behaviors we need to change or training we need to improve. We want to be sure that the police and civilians view this as an honest broker – someone who is interested in finding out what the facts are, not someone who is interested in taking sides.”

Related: Mayor Murray proposes “landmark legislation”

Murray was joined by Ian Warner, attorney for the mayor’s office. Together, they went through the three main components of the changes proposed for the Seattle Police Department. The legislation still has to make its way through the city council process and go up for a vote.

As it currently stands, there are three main points to the proposal, each with the aim of placing civilian oversight of the Seattle Police Department.

1. Seattle Community Police Commission

A permanent 15-member commission, appointed by the mayor, the city council, and the commission itself. Members will be vetted similarly to how the city’s human resources department currently hires employees. Warner said that the qualifications are unique: knowledge of police procedures, but also community expectations. The city will seek to fill the commission with a diverse membership, particularly geographic diversity.

The commission will have the ability to review policies and procedures. It won’t have the ability to discipline officers. It will direct its recommendations and findings to the chief of police who handles the discipline of officers under their command.

2. Independent Office of Police Accountability

The OPA will have civilian oversight and will conduct investigations into police conduct and have the power to subpoena. Leadership will be appointed by the mayor. The office will have a combination of sworn and civilian investigators, under the purview of civilian staff.

3. Inspector General

This is a new position. But the proposal essentially takes an OPA auditor position and gives it more power and independence. The inspector will investigate Seattle police complaints, and policies. The inspector will also have subpoena power.

“It’s addressing a big gap in the previous system,” Warner said of the inspector general position. “That gap is who is looking at systemic issues across the department.”

He pointed to the previous, local issue of Seattle police use of blast balls during protests.

“The department has done a lot of studies about blast balls … we understand from a public trust standpoint, that those reports come across as more genuine when they come from an outside entity,” he said.

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