New Seattle Police Chief announcement will come amidst more department problems

by: Graham Johnson Updated:


SEATTLE - On Monday morning Seattle Mayor Ed Murray will announce one of three people is the next police chief of the city of Seattle.

The candidates are: Kathleen O’Toole, former police commissioner in Boston; Robert Lehner, currently the chief in Elk Grove, California, and Frank Milstead, the chief in Mesa, Arizona.

Whoever is selected will assume a department that is not only under federal scrutiny, but also is not facing claims it no long polices as proactively as it once did.

A new report suggests Seattle police officers take a hands-off approach to combating low-level crime.

The Seattle Police Department data provided to the Community Police Commission tracked when officers take it upon themselves to check out a suspicious person.

In the past four years, those encounters have plummeted 80 percent.

"I'm very concerned about the statistics that maybe we aren't policing to the extent we should be policing," said Mayor Ed Murray.

Murray plans to announce a new police chief on Monday.

"This is a troubled police department," Murray said.   

The report does not give a reason for the hands-off approach.

The trend began before SPD came under federal oversight for use-of-force and biased policing.

But Kate Joncas, of the Downtown Seattle Association, suspects policy changes from the federal review have left officers confused.

"I don't think they have the confidence of what they should be doing in situations given the amount of scrutiny that has been on the department," Joncas said.

The report also shows the number of misdemeanor crimes prosecuted by the city dropped 49 percent between 2005-2013.

A spokeswoman for City Attorney Pete Holmes said he was on vacation and not available to comment.

Seattle police would not make Interim Chief Harry Bailey available for an interview.

SPD released a statement saying: "The department owes it to both residents and officers to provide clear expectations, training and equipment necessary to perform policing that is constitutional and within policy."