The head of Seattle’s citizen board monitoring police misconduct says his group is toothless, the Seattle Post-Intelligencer reports. Peter Holmes, a lawyer who chairs the Police Department’s accountability review board, said dire restrictions on information available to his panel, coupled with an agreement that leaves members personally vulnerable to police lawsuits, have led him to urge the City Council to rewrite its oversight rules for the Seattle Police Department. “Sometimes we get this sheet of paper which has 40 black spots on it — you can’t see anything — you can’t tell who’s on first,” Holmes said of the department practice of blacking out the name of every police officer and witness. “We can’t listen to the witness interviews on tape, we can’t see photographs of injuries if they show any police officer’s identity, so we really can’t audit what they’re doing.”
The upshot is that Holmes’ all-volunteer board depends entirely on information provided by the Police Department itself. Holmes wrote City Councilman Nick Licata, “A civilian review board forced to operate under the cloud of potential personal liability and without full access to the department’s investigative files is a sham.” Licata, chairman of the council’s Public Safety Committee, shares Holmes’ concerns. “The problems are real,” he said.