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Friday, June 20, 2008

The SCCPAP Report On Police Accountability In Seattle

The Seattle City Council Police Accountability Panel (SCCPAP) report has been submitted to council and is part of the public record, though it has not been officially released to the press at this time and there is no indication if it will have an official press release like the mayor's Police Accountability Review Panel (PARP) did.

The SCCPAP report offers several recommendations designed to work in tandem with and build upon the PARP report recommendations, while many of those 29 recommendations may be enacted after they were negotiated into the current contract with the Seattle Police Officer's Guild, some were reportedly dropped during negotiations and we are trying to get a hold of that contract in order to determine the extent of intended implementation.

It is up in the air as to whether this report will actually see the light of day, let alone be acted upon in any way since the contract with the guild has already been negotiated and the council, and city government as a whole, seems limited in the scope of what they can, or will, do legislatively about police discipline. So, this might be the only place where you actually hear about it.

I'll list the recommendations here, then provide an analysis and some interesting background on how the police chief and guild refused to cooperate with the process later today or tomorrow. If you would like to review the entire report that includes the reasons why for each recommendation along with background information, it's available online here. (The city's records link seems to be problematic, only partially loads most of the time, so I posted the report HERE on our site as well)

The SCCPAP report contains the following 23 recommendations:

OPA Recommendations:

1. OPA should be expressly authorized to investigate possible misconduct that is not the subject of a formal complaint.

2. OPA should re-interview complaining parties where necessary to assess the accuracy or implications of new information.

3. The "explanation of the finding reached" sent to the complaining party after an OPA investigation should be specific enough to permit the party to (a) make an informed decision about whether to ask for reconsideration, and (b) identify possible
errors or omissions in the explanation.

4. At least one third of the officers assigned to work at OPA should be detectives.
(currently all are line sergeants and they are picked off the roster, usually serve unwillingly which we have mentioned as a problem that introduces bias before).

5. There should be written guidelines setting out what types of misconduct complaints can be referred to mediation. The summary of the mediation process on the OPA website should make clear that complaining parties who opt for mediation may not thereafter renew their complaint.

6. The OPA should not consult with police officials outside that office, other than the Auditor, regarding the classification of a complaint. OPA should not consult with police officials outside that office, other than witnesses, regarding its recommended findings of fact.

7. At the conclusion of the independent OPA investigation, and before the matter is referred to the Chief, the OPA recommendation should be made by the OPA civilian director, and the OPA evaluation and summary of the investigation should be finalized by the OPA civilian director. That recommendation, evaluation and summary should be embodied in a written document signed by the OPA Director.

OPARB Recommendations:

8. The Board should be authorized to issue reports (including statistical reports) and/or make recommendations regarding any one or more of the following:

(i) the processes utilized by the Police Department (including but not limited to the OPA, the Auditor and the Board) to classify, investigate, make factual determinations, impose discipline and otherwise deal with police misconduct in one or more cases of the Board's selection,

(ii) any concern about police conduct that has arisen in an OPA case, or would be within the responsibility of the OPA if it were the subject of a complaint, and

(iii) any concern about police conduct called to the attention of the Board at a public meeting or through other contact with members of the community.

9. The Board shall conduct regular public meetings to obtain information regarding public concerns as to police conduct, and to provide the public with information about the OPA complaint process.

10. In order to prepare a report or recommendation the Board may, among other things:

(a) review the file in any closed OPA case or cases of its selection,

(b) obtain any document in the possession of the Police Department insofar as that document would be subject to disclosure under the Public Disclosure Act,

(c) request any other document in the possession of the Police Department,

(d) request and reach agreement with the Auditor for the Auditor to collect information or prepare reports, including statistical reports, and

(e) review national trends regarding best practices that might improve either the OPA process or other Police Department practices.

11. Police Department documents requested by the Board should in general be provided within 30 days. The Department should not withhold documents from the Board except where:
(a) disclosure is forbidden by law, or
(b) disclosure would materially interfere with an ongoing investigation.
Where redaction occurs, it should exclude only information that could be withheld under the Public Disclosure Act and should not be done in a manner that obscures the meaning of the document. If the Department declines to provide a document requested by the Board, or to do so in the manner or at the time requested by the Board, the Police Chief shall promptly provide to the Mayor and the Public Safety Committee a specific written explanation for that refusal. To the extent that a refusal was based on a lack of resources for copying or redaction,the Chief shall explain what additional resources are required.

12. The Board should be expanded to five members.

13. The Board should be provided with significant staff support and with funds to help defray the cost incurred by the Police Department in copying documents and in
redacting documents in a manner which permits meaningful review.

14. Board members should not be required to execute a "hold harmless" agreement as a condition of service on the Board.

15. The City should without equivocation defend and indemnify Board members for actions in the scope of their official duties.

Auditor Recommendations:

16. In addition to the position's existing authority, the Auditor should be empowered to reach and carry out agreements with the Board to collect information or prepare reports, including statistical reports.

17. The Police Department shall provide the Auditor with any documents or other information required to carry out the duties of that office.

18. The Auditor shall prepare and release at least annually an analysis of the level of discipline imposed for various types of police misconduct.

19. The responsibility now imposed by ordinance on the Board to prepare certain statistics should be transferred to the Auditor. The Board remains authorized, but would not be required, to obtain and analyze statistical data to enable the Board to carry out its duties.

20. The Auditor shall prepare and issue at least annually a report analyzing OPA's response to claims of possible police misconduct as reported by Risk Management.

Additional Recommendations:

21. The city should repeal those parts of SMC sections 3.28.830 and 3.28.870, which impose on the OPA Director and OPA Auditor a duty to treat all materials to which they have access as if they were attorney-client privileged material.

22. The OPA Director, the Auditor and the Board should not be held to a higher level of confidentiality than is consistent with the Public Records Act.

23. If a request made under the Public Records Act for information from the OPA is rejected in whole or part, the Police Department shall promptly report that action to the Public Safety Committee and shall explain the basis for that rejection.

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