SEATTLE - One day before a crucial meeting between Seattle city leaders and the Department of Justice on the Seattle Police Department, city officials attempted to take responsibility for the department’s troubles and proposed steps to improve its relationship with the public.
“I am the one who’s accountable to the public, the mayor, to the City Council, and to the men and women of this department,” Seattle police Chief John Diaz said at a joint news conference Thursday with Mayor Mike McGinn.
A scathing report from the U.S. Department of Justice came after the high-profile killing of Native American woodcarver John T. Williams, and the department ruled in December that Seattle officers engaged in a pattern of using excessive force.
McGinn and Seattle police Chief John Diaz announced 20 reforms they’re hoping to have accomplished in the next 20 months.
“Clearly, we’ve been challenged by this Department of Justice report, we’ve been challenged by our community, we’ve been challenged by the high-profile incidents,” McGinn said.
Their initiative calls for addressing issues such as the use of force, ending biased policing, managing public demonstrations and holding officers accountable.
While those are similar to the Justice Department’s goals, the mayor wants to avoid a court-supervised consent decree because it involves paying for costly federal oversight.
“We just want to work with them to make sure that whatever type of agreement we have is consistent with our resources and our ability to achieve the goals we want to achieve, too,” McGinn said.
Leaders of the Minority Executive Directors Coalition were at the news conference Thursday to praise the mayor’s initiative, but they also want the court to supervise implementation.
“A court is one way to make sure that the recommendations are followed through and that there’s accountability,” said Jamie Garcia, the parliamentarian of the Coalition.
While the Minority Executive Directors are supportive of the mayor’s reforms, they want to see the Justice Department ask for more.