A top attorney with the U.S. Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division has sent Seattle officials two sternly worded letters questioning whether the city is negotiating proposed police fixes in good faith, reports the Seattle Times. The letters reflect a widening breach in the relationship between city and federal officials as the two sides seek to negotiate a settlement and avoid a prolonged and costly lawsuit over allegations that Seattle police routinely use excessive force.
One letter accuses the city of providing an inadequate response and criticized city officials for the leak to the Associated Press of a draft consent decree outlining changes sought by the Justice Department. The city’s copy of the proposal had been kept locked under an agreement between both sides to not discuss its contents. AP, which published a story May 15, was allowed to review an internal Police Department analysis that characterized the Justice Department’s proposed fixes as wildly unrealistic while asserting that implementing them could cost the city $41 million a year. Sources described the Justice Department letter as containing “scathing” language. A second letter from DOJ directed the city to “get serious” about negotiations.