As far as displays of unity go, Friday's press conference at city hall announcing the accord reached between Seattle and the DOJ on police reforms was a good one. If extending the hour-long ordeal wouldn't have prevented footage from the presser from safely making the five o'clock news, it wouldn't have been terribly surprising to see the mayor, City Attorney Pete Holmes, U.S. District Attorney Jenny Durkan, the DOJ's Thomas Perez and Seattle Police Chief John Diaz break into Kumbaya. And Saturday, McGinn and Diaz flaunted their unity even more.
Though the agreement reached with the DOJ puts in place a court monitor that will oversee the SPD reforms and make sure all is going as planned, Perez noted at least twice during Friday's congratulatory press conference that Diaz was still SPD's top boss. On Saturday, according to the KOMO story, the hand-shaking and baby kissing at the Torchlight Parade was apparently Diaz's idea.
"It was the chief's idea to come out. We made this DOJ announcement on Friday, which was a big deal," McGinn is quoted as saying in the KOMO story, which for some reason felt the need to note that Saturday's parade marked "the first time the mayor and police chief stood side by side publicly since Friday."
While the full-court press is on to put a positive spin on a situation that for months has reminded anyone following the news that SPD has plenty of areas in need of improvement, not everyone is ready to hand out high-fives without seeing how the agreement plays out over time. Chris Stearns, chairman of the Seattle Human Rights Commission, issued a cautiously optimistic statement shortly after Friday's press conference announcing the agreement.
"We are working with the community to analyze the settlement and MOU," Stearns said in a release distributed to the media Friday evening. "The community is just getting a chance to review the documents and it appears there are a lot of issues that still need to be reviewed and discussed. For instance, the creation of a new Police Commission is definitely a step in the right direction, but if the Commission has no power other than to act in an advisory role, then we're not sure how much, and how fast, change will happen. We do appreciate all the hard work that the City and federal leaders and staff put into the settlement and MOU and congratulate the parties for reaching an agreement and avoiding a trial."
The commission Stearns references, the Community Police Commission, which will be made up of voices from the community and the police department (to be appointed by Mayor McGinn) plays a large role in the deal struck between the DOJ and Seattle. Among other things, the commission will be tasked with addressing biased policing, along with monitoring SPD's use-of-force policies and internal investigation procedures. The commission was McGinn's idea. Perez called it "a signature component" of the agreement, and said it's something he expects other cities to model in the future.
Of the commission he championed, McGinn said Friday, "How do we police in a way that every individual is treated with dignity and respect? We needed a forum where we could have those tough conversations."