Minority and civil-rights activists in Seattle are demanding sweeping changes to the way the city investigates complaints of police misconduct. At a long-sought public hearing last night, the Seattle Times says, activists presented a nine-part plan for increasing civilian oversight of police and berated three City Council members for allowing the police union to influence the police-accountability system in contract negotiations.
The wish list includes major changes previously rejected by city leaders, such as giving a civilian review board subpoena and investigative powers. Critics also want the city to hire civilians to accept police-misconduct complaints, give a civilian panel full access to reports of misconduct investigations, and add “complainant advocates” to guide people through the process.
Seattle alreadyh has made significant changes to its system of investigating police misconduct in the past few years. It created a civilian-led Office of Professional Accountability to investigate complaints and appointed a civilian board to assess how well the system is working.
The message from more than 100 people who attended the hearing was that the system remains inadequate. People related personal stories of alleged racial profiling. The public hearing was part of activists’ efforts to influence the city’s ongoing negotiations with the Seattle Police Officers Guild. The contract for more than 1,100 Seattle police officers expired at the beginning of the year. The union opposes demands for more civilian involvement in misconduct investigations, fearing the system would become tilted against police.
Councilman Jim Compton said the council would take the testimony seriously, but he stopped short of promising action.