Kathryn Olson Mug.jpg
Kathryn Olson
On Tuesday afternoon Mike McGinn's office sent out a press release - packaging the long-awaited announcement that Kathryn Olson has been reappointed to


McGinn Hires Connie Rice to Help Implement DOJ Consent Decree, Finally Reappoints Olson as OPA Director

Kathryn Olson Mug.jpg
Kathryn Olson
On Tuesday afternoon Mike McGinn's office sent out a press release - packaging the long-awaited announcement that Kathryn Olson has been reappointed to the position of civilian director of the Seattle Police Department's Office of Professional Accountability (OPA), along with news that Connie Rice and Glenn Harris have both been brought aboard - in separate capacities - to help Seattle institute the reforms laid out in the recent agreement with the Justice Department.

As is customary in such situations, the press release touted the qualifications and accomplishments of all three. And for good reason. The hiring of Rice as an advisor as the city begins the process of bettering itself through consent decree is particularly noteworthy, as she made a name for herself helping to transform the Los Angeles Police Department in the aftermath of the Rodney King beating and is largely credited with helping the city implement and embrace its own DOJ consent decree. Currently, Rice - a second cousin to Condi - is co-director of a civil-rights organization called the Advancement Project. She's also an author and has an extensive history with the Los Angeles office of the NAACP Legal Defense and Education Fund.

"Connie brings her community and civil rights experience in assisting the city of Los Angeles during their broad and deep police reform efforts," McGinn pronounced in the release. "I look forward to her expertise as we implement our Agreement with the Department of Justice."

Despite Rice's star power, the Olson announcement seemed to get just about as many people talking. With several council members on record questioning McGinn's foot dragging when it comes to Olson's OPA reappointment, it will now be interesting to see how the long-delayed decision sits with a Seattle City Council which must ultimately sign off on the move.

Former Seattle Mayor Greg Nickels appointed Olson her position with the OPA in May 2007, with her first term technically expiring in May of 2010. Civilian directors of the OPA serve three-year terms, and are allowed a maximum of nine years in the position. However, despite the fact Olson's term expired in 2010, McGinn - up until yesterday - had delayed officially submitting her name to the council for reconfirmation. According to McGinn's office, "Olson's reappointment was put on hold in deference to the DOJ investigation of SPD and negotiations toward a mutually acceptable agreement."

During this time - May 2010 until yesterday - and despite the fact her exact status was in limbo, Olsen continued to serve as the OPA's civilian director.

Many have said it could have been handled faster. Others have pointed out that Olson's term ended more than a year and half before the DOJ released the results of its investigation - in December 2011.

It was a delay that irked a number of Seattle City Council members.

Taken from an Aug. 22 Seattle Times article:

City Councilmembers Bruce Harrell and Tim Burgess, both mentioned as potential opponents of McGinn's in next year's mayoral election, have raised questions about Olson's status since early 2011. Most recent was a request from Harrell, the chair of the council's public-safety committee.

In a June 18 letter emailed to McGinn and City Attorney Pete Holmes, Harrell noted that the OPA director is limited to nine years in office, with three-year terms that each must be approved by the council.

"Because of the issues that we have been examining within our Seattle Police relative to police accountability, I understand why there has been some delay in the confirmation process; however, I would like to know when the confirmation packet will be delivered to our Committee," Harrell wrote.

And ...

In a second email dated Aug. 8, Harrell expressed frustration, telling McGinn and Holmes that while he had received some "courtesy contact" regarding the issue, "no clarification has been furnished."

And finally ...

"I see it as a sign of mismanagement," [Harrell] said of the lengthy delay, calling it a "slap in the face for those who are advocating for accountability and transparency."

One of the most basic questions that will need to be answered about Olson's reappointment is exactly when her second term began. In May of this year she had officially been on the job five years, despite the fact her name is only now being submitted for reappointment to a second term - which the announcement indicates would run until 2013.

It doesn't take a math major to realize that suggests Olson's second term began in 2010 - meaning McGinn effectively circumvented the need for council approval of her reappointment for over two years.

As noted above, it'll be interesting to see how that sits with the council.

And we haven't even discussed Olson's job performance yet, as the OPA during her tenure has not been without its critics.

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