With the clock ticking on when the U.S. Department of Justice will release its likely-bombshell report on the Seattle Police Department's cowboy-esque use-of-force tactics and racial bias (rumor is it'll be this month), Seattle Mayor Mike McGinn is looking to cast the first stone.
The mayor just sent a letter to the DOJ outlining an apparent plan by SPD Chief John Diaz for a "complete revamp" of how the department does much of its business.
The Seattle Times
has a thorough examination of the plan today. But the gist of the changes have to do with how officers are allowed to avoid self-incrimination in the wake of using force and how the department polices itself when use-of-force is questioned.
Specifically, McGinn refers to a recent letter sent by the DOJ to him concerning the use of the Garrity Rule when taking statements from police officers following the use of force. The Garrity rule was designed to help officers avoid self incrimination, but the DOJ said the SPD had so warped and twisted the rule that officers (like teen-kicker James Lee) are able to avoid accountability.
McGinn promises to give "careful consideration" to the DOJ's request that it tamp down the use of the Garrity Rule.
McGinn also says that the department will create three new oversight panels, including an eight-person "Professional Standards Section" responsible for "research on standards and best practices, internal audits and inspections, and managing strategic initiatives", as well as a "Force Review Board" and a "Force Investigative Team." These two latter teams will apparently investigate and rule on use-of-force incidents, providing another layer of bureaucracy to the process of sorting out when police force is justified and when it's not.
That's the good part.
The bad part is that all three of the new panels are in-house, SPD-run panels, and therefore don't offer independent accountability.
This fact might normally be less notable, but SPD's less-than-stellar record of policing itself was one of the reasons the DOJ investigated it in the first place.