City Licata Wins OPA Fight
posted by April 16 at 13:15 PMon
Council president Nick Licata has prevailed in his effort to get a new sergeant assigned to the Office of Professional Accountability, the Seattle Police Department’s self-policing, investigatory arm. The OPA’s average investigation response time has been slipping for years—to 119 days in 2006, 29 days longer than the 90-day-maximum goal. Last year, the council allocated $120,000 to hire a seventh sergeant-detective to do internal investigations, but police chief Gil Kerlikowske decided not to fill the position—in part, he said, because SPD had already assigned an “acting sergeant” to OPA to do case intake, freeing up the other six sergeants to do investigations. Community groups such as the NAACP have complained that the OPA lacks teeth.
Last week, however, Licata met with Kerlikowske and convinced the police chief to move one of SPD’s 144 sergeants into the position. “Over the course of the hour-plus discussion, I think he came to understand that there was a pretty strong paper trail that we’d built up” in support of the new position, Licata says. “I don’t think it was going to play very well out in the press. So he said, ‘I’ll switch a sergeant over, we’ll give the OPA director six months [to evaluate response times], and see how it goes.” If investigation times improve, the money could be allocated in next year’s city budget; either way, it won’t be spent until the new OPA director, Kathryn Olson, decides if the new officer has improved response times.